A qualitative insight into the removal of the Australian COVID-19 lockdowns on dogs and cats, and their owners

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Jessica Lee Oliva
Rachel Lau

Abstract

The majority of Australian dog and cat owners living alone during the first COVID-19 lockdown endorsed the idea that their pet made the isolation easier, reduced feelings of loneliness, and provided companionship. More companionship/attention was also the most highly endorsed way pet owners perceived that the lockdown affected their pets. With the advent of the removal of the first lockdown restrictions and an attempt to return to a ‘COVID normal’ lifestyle, the aim of the current study was to elucidate how pet ownership affected the experience of the easing of restrictions in Australia, and how returning to a state of ‘normalcy’ might have impacted pets. A total of 208 pet owners from Australian states and territories completed an online questionnaire. Participants included 101 dog owners and 107 cat owners. Results revealed that despite official easing of restrictions, ongoing concern of contracting COVID-19 played a role in participant tendency to continue a reduced level of socialising and going outside the house. As a result, there was minimal perceived behavioural and/or emotional impact on most pets. However, for those who were returning to work and/or a life more outside the home, there were reports that both owners and their pets experienced separation anxiety. Participants also reported that they benefited from interaction with pets while working from home, and therefore implementing more pet-friendly policies in workplaces should be considered.

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Research papers