Australian owners are now spending more time with their pets.
The bond between humans and animals is ancient, and it has long been acknowledged that spending time with animals has many benefits to both our mental wellbeing and physical health. So it comes as no surprise that nationally, 69% of Australian households now own a pet, with almost one-fifth (19%) of all pet dogs and almost one-quarter of all pet cats (24%) having been taken into our homes during the pandemic.
How the pandemic impacted pet owners
Covid-19 has certainly brought about many changes to our daily lives. Following the global spread of the pandemic, increased unemployment rates, combined with the implementation of extreme social distancing measures, meant that many people were suddenly isolated at home, cut off from friends, family and colleagues.
And while social isolation may have helped in preventing the spread of the disease, data shows that it also contributed to a decrease in quality of life and wellbeing, with many people experiencing increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression since the pandemic began.
So where do pets fit into all of this? In late 2020, nearly 400 Australian pet owners took part in an online survey that evaluated their mood, mindfulness and loneliness levels during the stage three COVID-19 lockdown. Many of those who owned dogs expressed sentiments such as:
"If it wasn’t for the dogs, I would have had nobody here with me. They don’t talk back, but they’re definitely here for me."
"She’s a lifesaver. I have no idea how I’d cope without her. Gives me company, purpose, some affection, and joy."
Some participants even saw the experience of being locked down as a positive, because it gave them the opportunity to spend more time with their pets:
"Having him has made COVID-19 in many ways a positive experience. It has given me extra time to spend with him."
Another recent study conducted by the University of South Australia explored the impact of physical contact between pets and their owners during the extended periods of social isolation. This study also found that “participants frequently described touch-based interactions with their pets as being comforting or relaxing in a way that contributed to their overall wellbeing.”
The financial impact
However, with increased pet ownership, comes increased costs. Yet despite new research data showing that over half of Australians are now spending more on their pets each month than themselves, most pet owners interviewed insisted that the love animals provide was well worth the extra expense, with many even undertaking renovations and home additions purely to provide extra spaces and enrichment for their pets.
The emotional impact
As lockdowns start to ease, there’s the concern that our beloved pets will suddenly find themselves home alone as people start to head back to the office or jet-off on a long overdue holiday, leading to an increase in stress-related behavioural problems.
And while separation related behaviours, including anxiety, are a valid cause for concern, the good news is (in Australia, at least), that almost half of pet owners said that they now spend more quality time with their pets compared to before and even during the lockdown due, to continuing flexibility around working from home arrangements.
It’s been a rough couple of years, but there’s no doubt that our pets are part of the family, adding another dimension to life and getting us through each day lovingly, loyally and without question.
Owning a pet has been shown to be particularly beneficial during these uncertain times of an ever-changing world, providing comfort, companionship, and a sense of self-worth and resilience. There’s no doubt that Australia is a pet-loving culture, and the pandemic appears to have only strengthened this relationship.
“Pets are emerging as not only being life enhancing, but at times life-saving.”
If you do feel that your pet is experiencing increased anxiety or stress during these times, especially if your working-from-home arrangements are changing, consider our CanineCeuticals Stress-Ease and Relax calming formulas.
These are designed specifically to assist with the symptomatic relief of mild-to-moderate anxiety, irritability, restlessness and stress in dogs. They work to naturally support the central nervous system in times of nervous tension or heightened states of emotion.
Check them out!
- Animal Medicines Australia (2021). Pets and the pandemic. A social research snapshot of pets and people in the covid-19 era.
- Oliva, J.L. and Johnston, K.L. (2021). Puppy love in the time of corona: Dog ownership protects against loneliness for those living alone during the covid-19 lockdown. Int J Soc Psychiatry, 67(3): p. 232-242.
- Young, J., Pritchard, R., Nottle, C., et al. (2020). Pets, touch, and covid-19: Health benefits from non-human touch through times of stress. J Beh Eco Policy, 4(2): p. 25-33.