Those who had a cat or a dog were able to maintain better mental health during the Covid-19 restrictions. Having a pet could help to reduce any psychological stress suffered by people during lockdown.
Researchers from the University of York and the University of Lincoln discovered that pet owners were able to maintain better mental health during the self-isolation restrictions due to sharing their home with a cat or a dog.
More than 90 per cent of the 6,000 participants in the UK-based study said their pet helped them cope emotionally with lockdown and helped to beat any feelings of loneliness, while 96 per cent said their pet kept them fit and active.
The most popular pets in the survey were dogs and cats, followed by small mammals, such as hamsters and fish.
But 68 per cent of pet owners were worried about the effects of lockdown on their animals, with most concerned about the restrictions on access to veterinary care.
Co-author Professor Daniel Mills said that having a pet at home could work as a “buffer” against any mental health problems, but called for more support for those who were suffering from negative feelings during the global pandemic.
“This work is particularly important at the current time as it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lockdown,” he explained. “However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet’s needs too, as our other work shows failing to meet these can have a detrimental effect for both people and their pets.”
This study involved surveying people of all walks of life, and under largely unprecedented circumstances – a pandemic lockdown. Between mid-April and the end of May, close to 6,000 people living in the UK during lockdown were surveyed about their mental health and their pets.
Most of the study participants had at least one pet, so although the researchers surveyed thousands of people, only a small fraction of people involved didn’t own any pets, meaning the findings are skewed towards animal lovers.