A new study in the open-access journal, ‘Animals’, examines the links between pet ownership, loneliness, and wellbeing during the covid-19 pandemic.
The study – led by the University of the West of Scotland, with support from the Waltham Petcare Science Institute in Leicestershire – also provides evidence that many people perceive psychological and emotional benefits from their relationship with their pet, which may translate into a greater bond and potentially improved mental well-being and loneliness.
“Despite being physically isolated from friends, family or colleagues, having a pet meant never truly being alone,” noted PhD student Heather Clements.
In the online survey of 1,199 participants, those who kept companion animals overwhelmingly rated them as having had a positive effect on their well-being during the pandemic.
Companion animals were also reported to have benefited their guardians by facilitating interpersonal connections as, even during the tightest restrictions, leaving the house was permitted for reasons related to animal welfare, such as to walk dogs or attend to horses. This often led to brief, socially distanced interactions that owners said they appreciated during periods of isolation.
“Companion animals not only helped to take their guardians’ minds off negative thoughts associated with the pandemic, but also provided a much-needed source of purpose,” Heather added.
Many participants indicated their companion animals provided a source of positive distraction, and among participants who kept ornamental fishes, watching home aquaria was frequently cited as a beneficial activity and a welcome distraction – although they lacked the comfort of personal touch.