Pets, the Lock-Down, and Mental Health

It may not surprise pet guardians to know the results of a new survey on the role pets played during the virus lock-down.  The results revealed that sharing a home with a pet appeared to act as a buffer against human psychological stress during lock-down.  In fact, most people who took part in the research perceived their pets to be a source of considerable support during the initial lock-down period (23 March — 1 June, 2020).

Study overview

Researchers found that having a pet was linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness. Around 90 per cent of the 6,000 study participants had at least one pet. The strength of the human-animal bond did not differ significantly between species with the most common pets being cats and dogs followed by small mammals and fish.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lock-down and 96 per cent said their pet helped keep them fit and active.

However, when it came to stress linked to worry, having a pet was not completely beneficial.  Sixty-eight per cent of pet owners reported having been worried about their animals during lock-down, for example due to restrictions on access to veterinary care and exercise or because they wouldn’t know who would look after their pet if they fell ill.


Journal Reference:  Elena Ratschen, Emily Shoesmith, Lion Shahab, Karine Silva, Dimitra Kale, Paul Toner, Catherine Reeve, Daniel S. Mills. Human-animal relationships and interactions during the Covid-19 lockdown phase in the UK: Investigating links with mental health and loneliness. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (9): e0239397 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239397