Your Pets Feel The COVID-19 Anxiety, Too

By Dr. Chris Norris, Sleep Standards

The Coronavirus pandemic is creating anxiety and stress for humans, but chances are, our furry companions could likely feeling the same way. We surveyed 1047 pet owners across the United States during the pandemic to find out.

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About The Research

2020 has been an unprecedented year, with the COVID-19 pandemic completely changing the way many people thought we’d be spending our year. There’s no doubt the pandemic has had a massive impact on individuals. With more than 11 million cases and 500,000 deaths, it’s clear that the pandemic has been devastating. 

However, the impact isn’t just related to health. It’s had a profound impact on the mentality of individuals. Tensions have never been higher, and people are at loggerheads with each other every day. Whether it’s arguing about the effectiveness of masks or the current political climate, the modern-day environment is a breeding ground for anxiety.

This anxiety isn’t just restricted to just you and your family, though. It’s very easy for these feelings to translate to your beloved pets as well. Several researchers are theorizing that behavioral changes in the individuals are affecting their pets. It makes sense to look into the matter completely, and ask the public whether they’re noticing any changes in their pet’s behavior, which is why we are conducting this survey.

The participants in the survey include 1047 pet owners in the United States. Out of these opponents, there are 60% that are dog owners, 21% own a cat, 15.3% own both, and 3.7% fall in the others category.

Part 1

The Human-Animal Bond

Pets could be feeling secondhand anxiety from their owners.

Pet Owners Are Dealing With Negative Feelings During The Pandemic

For the first part of our survey, we wanted to understand the condition of the owners. This would allow us to form a basis on which to establish whether they could be transmitting negative secondhand feelings to their pets. Hence, the first question deals with whether pet owners are experiencing negative feelings during the pandemic.

Anxiety

68%

Stress

57.5%

Lonely

27.6%

Unsure about the future

55.1%

These results indicate the pandemic has had a distinctively negative impact on American citizens. A virus that’s devastating the globe on an unprecedented scale will create a very panic environment. People are still unsure about the future.

Does This Affect Our Beloved Pets?

The second question in the survey deals with whether the owners are noticing any anxiety-related behavior in their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pets could be feeling secondhand anxiety from their owners who are coping with lifestyle changes caused by the pandemic

Pets and owners share a ‘human-animal bond’ due to the close amount of time they spent together. In most cases, the younger animal imprints on humans, which helps develop a bond. Regardless of whether the animal is a dog or a cat, they’ll form a significant relationship with the humans that provide them with love and affection. This bond between humans and animals isn’t something new. It dates back to our ancestors, who would go on hunts with wolves.

So, it’s perfectly possible that humans can transfer secondhand emotions to their pets. Given the current climate, with the global pandemic, political unrest, and the Black Lives Matter, tensions are at an all-time high. The general public is experiencing severe anxiety, which they’re transferring onto their pets. While initially there was the general idea that pets would actually appreciate the additional amount of time they can spend with owners. It’s turning out to be wrong. While humans can consume information and engage in activities to reduce stress, pets can only see their owners going through stress. It can be an especially confusing time for the animal.

Part 2

Pets & Coronavirus

What if they get infected?

What if Our pets get infected?

Four out of ten pet owners would consider giving up their infected pet during the COVID-19 pandemic

These results are dramatically different from when individuals were questioned about whether they were worried about their pets. There’s been an increased incidence of abandoned pets since the lockdown. Time reports that there was a surge in abandoned pets during China’s coronavirus lockdown.

It’s heartbreaking to think that pets that would normally receive love are being abandoned during these trying times. That’s the kind of fear this global pandemic instills in the people. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. As has been the case throughout history, pets have been great companions during the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Could Pet spread COVID-19 to you and your family?

With the onset of the virus, people have been encouraged to take more precautions against the disease. During the early days of the pandemic, there was a fear arising that pets could transmit the virus to their owners. However, the World Health Organization was quick to dispel the rumors in a tweet, suggesting that currently, no evidence links the transmission of the virus from pets to humans.

At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19

We asked in the survey whether the owners were worried that their pets could spread COVID-19 to them and their families. The answers showcase that a wide majority of individuals weren’t worried.

These results go hand in hand with the news that humans aren’t at risk from their pets. However, the CDC states that if you are infected with COVID, it’s best to avoid contact with your pets. It’s possible that you can transmit the disease to your pets.

We are lucky to have pets

During the lockdown, when everyone is in quarantine, a lot of people are experiencing a severe lack of human contact. However, where pets come in, and the lockdown provides a chance to connect with them more. Spending more time at home means that you get to spend more time with your beloved pets. Their unconditional love can go a long way in helping owners make up for the lack of human contact.

A recent trend on twitter is treating your pets like your colleagues because so many people are working from home. Many individuals are tweeting about working at home with their pets joining in from time to time. Mark tweets that he’s sharing his office with a cat; he mostly sits at the desk and looks out the window.

When you are working from home, treat your pets like your colleagues

Recent data also showcases while pet abandonment is surging, pet adoption has never been higher. Now more than ever, people are looking to get a pet to keep them company during the pandemic.

Part 3

The Next Steps

The “New Normal”

When It's Time To Return To The Office

As an increasing number of states are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions, people are beginning to return back to work. After spending so much time at home, it’s natural that the transition isn’t going too smoothly for certain people. Therefore, it’s fair to have that same worry for pets.

Those that respond with yes might be aware of the impact the pandemic is having, not only them but their pets as well. Animals that were already anxious before the pandemic appreciate the increasing amount of time they get to spend with owners. 

Making that jump from being home all of the time to being gone for eight or more hours at a time is really hard on our pets.

However, as their owners begin to start returning to work, this disturbs the animal and gives them stress. It can be difficult for these pets, to then begin to readjust. 

What Would You Do To Protect Your Pet?

Our last question deals with what individuals can do to protect their pets during the coronavirus pandemic

Put face coverings on pets

20.3%

Keep pets indoors and don't let them roam freely

61.4%

Avoid public places

64.6%

Spend more time with them

46.2%

61.4% of owners respond with keeping their pets indoors and not letting them roam outside freely. A further 64.6% claim that they would avoid public places, and 46.2 % claim that they’ll spend more time with them. While the latter might lead to animal stress later, it’s not an entirely bad thing, and the CDC recommends all the steps above. However, one thing the CDC does not recommend is putting face coverings on their pet. However, 20.3% of owners still claim that they’ll put face coverings on pets; this is one habit that needs to change.

Do not put face coverings on pets during the pandemic. Covering a pet’s face could harm them.

Methodology And Limitations

To collect the data shown above, we surveyed 1,047 pet owners in the United States. An attention-checker question was included to ensure the participants did not mindlessly answer questions.

Because the survey relies on self-reporting, issues such as telescoping and exaggeration can influence responses. Please also note that this survey’s results do not reflect our opinions.

Fair Use Statement

If you know someone who could benefit from our findings, feel free to share this project with them. The graphics and content are available for noncommercial reuse. All we ask is that you link back to this page so that readers get all the necessary information and our contributors receive proper credit.

Credits

Managing Editor: Dr. Chris Norris

Correspondent: Amna El Tawil

Digital Design & Graphics: Chris Nguyen

Digital Producer: Sean Maguire

 

Chris Norris, Niwako Ogata, Connie L. Jones, and Robert Johnson contributed their time and research to this report.
All images courtesy Unslash, except where otherwise noted.