Science Matters →

How Do Pets Affect Us During a Pandemic? 

variety of pets
(Image: Getty Images)

We’ve often read that having a pet enhances one’s health or pet owners tend to live longer, but how do they do through a crisis like the pandemic? Recently some scientists took a deeper look into the relationships between humans and their animal companions during our current pandemic-lockdown-lifestyle. How do pets affect us during a pandemic? 

Michael Jackson had a chimp named Bubbles. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a donkey.

Miley Cyrus’s love for her pot bellied pig is well known too. And even Salvador Dali was known to walk around the streets of Paris with his anteater. The point is pets come in all shapes and sizes

As many people socially distanced themselves to prevent spreading the coronavirus they substantially reduced their daily, normal interactions with other people. Loneliness and isolation are often a result of a secluded solitary lifestyle. Scientists also know that loneliness can lead to further mental and physical damage as well. But, how do pets affect our current socially distanced existence? 

A survey was conducted involving 6,000 participants. Some pet owners while others were not. So, the results here do skew towards pet lovers, something to keep in mind as we explore the results. Survey participants were asked questions regarding how their animal companions have factored into emotionally coping with the pandemic, keeping individuals active, and so on. 

An overwhelming majority of survey responses indicated that animal companions have helped humans cope with the new-normal of socially distanced living. 94% even said their animals have had a positive impact on their families through pandemic. 

In the past, most of these types of studies have focused on dogs and cats; this study’s scope however was expanded to any and all pets. Researchers observed that humans can form strong emotional bonds with non-traditional animal companions. Individuals with an animal companion, be it a dog, cat, goat, bearded dragon, or sugar glider, reported a less lonely experience through the lockdown.

This research raises many questions regarding the human-animal bond and whether we can define its role in understanding human relationships. This study also noted that this may be a construct linked to mental health vulnerability in some individuals.  

For the moment though, we have yet another report supporting the notion that animal ownership may very well mitigate some of the damaging psychological impacts of lockdown life. There you go folks, a classic science story about claws and effect.