Scientists from the University of York and the University of Lincoln have published an article in PLOS ONE on the impact of pets on their owners during the quarantine caused by the pandemic. As expected, having a dog or fish at home was clearly associated with better mental health and less loneliness.
About 90% of the 6000 Britons in the study had at least one pet. More than 90% of respondents said that their animals helped them emotionally cope with isolation, and 96% believe that it was only thanks to the animals that they remained physically active and did not lose their shape. At the same time, it did not matter at all which animal lived in the homes of the survey participants: the most common pets were cats and dogs, followed by small mammals like guinea pigs and fish, but the strength of the emotional connection was the same.
However, 68% of pet owners reported feeling anxious about their pets during isolation, as access to veterinary care and physical activity was limited. The owners were also uncomfortable with the thought of who would take care of the cat or dog if they got sick.
Interestingly, the study also demonstrated a link between mental health and the strength of the emotional bond that the owner forms with his animal: the more mentally vulnerable a person was initially, the more dependent he felt on the animal.
Scientists also surveyed participants about relationships with wild animals, and found that many during the lockdown became addicted to birdwatching: almost 55% of respondents said that they watched and fed birds.