Australian pet owners have been buoyed by the strong relationship with their pets during the pandemic, citing physical and mental health benefits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Animal Medicines Australia’s new Pets and the Pandemic study found 70% of owners said pets have had a positive experience on their lives during the pandemic – with almost half (47%) feeling ‘very positive’.
This was driven by the companionship provided, with all types of pets providing a source of joy, comfort and unconditional love. This echoes academic literature from the University of South Australia highlighting how pets can improve human well-being during periods of social isolation, with touch-based interactions providing comfort and relaxation.
Participants in our study – which included qualitative research alongside a national survey – described feeling “lucky”, “happy” and “grateful” for their pets. Those experiencing the worst financial and social impacts of the pandemic recounted how their sense of pet-parenting responsibility kept them going during difficult times – getting them out of bed, going for walks, and maintaining a routine.
When asked to reflect on COVID-related behavioural shifts in their pets or themselves, pet owners often struggled to articulate specifics – perhaps with this ‘blurriness’ exacerbated by the prolonged nature of lockdowns and restrictions.
Those who did observe or recall any difference were most likely to feel their pets were more active and playful, as well as sleeping more and eating more – though this appears to be the result of owners spending more time at home and therefore observing typical pet behaviours.
Within themselves, owners were most likely to recall talking to their pets more, giving more treats, and taking more walks – with the latter providing much-needed physical exercise and breaks from stay-at-home monotony during lockdowns. Pet owners also noted they were washing and grooming their pets more, buying their pets more accessories and gifts, and feeding them more.
Overall, pet owners were near-unanimous in their advocacy for others to experience the joys of pet ownership. Our research found strengthened relationships between people and their pets through the pandemic – with one in two pet owners spending more quality time with their pets than ever before.
Quotes attributable to Animal Medicines Australia Executive Director Ben Stapley:
“These numbers speak for themselves – one of the many things which have gotten a lot of people through lockdowns and other pandemic stresses is their pets.”
“A lot of people have been cut off from their family and friends for various reasons in the last 18 months, and their pets have provided comfort as a companion and someone to talk to.”
“Other research we’ve done indicates more Australians have either acquired a brand-new pet or a considering acquiring a pet, showing how many people may need a friend to help get them through this difficult time.”