People with pets suffered less stress in lockdown

People with pets suffered less stress in lockdown because sharing your home with a dog or cat boosts mental health and reduces loneliness, study claims

  • Researchers quizzed more than 6,000 Britons on stress and mental health 
  • Study conducted during coronavirus lockdown between March 23 and June 1 
  • More than 90% said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown

The coronavirus lockdown was tough on many people, but having a pet helped lower stress levels, according to new research. 

A survey conducted on 6,000 Britons by UK researchers found owning an animal companion boosted mental health and reduced feelings of loneliness. 

More than nine in ten participants said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown. Nearly all (96 per cent) said it helped keep them fit and active. 

A survey conducted on 6,000 Britons by UK researchers found owning an animal companion boosted mental health and reduced feelings of loneliness

Researchers recorded how people coped with the lockdown measures enforced by Boris Johnson during the height of the pandemic in the UK, between March 23 — when formal lockdown was announced — and June 1. 

Lead author Dr Elena Ratschen, a health scientist at the University of York, says the people who reported poor mental health also scored highly for the strength of their bond with the pet.   

Cats are better at controlling their hunger when they are only being fed one meal a day, according to a new study.

In experiments, cats that ate one large meal a day in the morning were more satisfied compared to those that ate four smaller meals throughout the day.

Feeding cats once at breakfast time could result in less food-begging behaviour like meowing and lingering outside the kitchen cupboard, the study authors say. 

It also replicates the eating patterns of their feline cousins in the wild, which endure ‘intermittent fasting’ before finding their next meal. 

Cutting back feeding frequency could also help reduce the risk of cat obesity from overeating, which shortens their life and makes them more prone to disease.  

‘We also discovered that in this study, the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not statistically differ by animal species, meaning that people in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their guinea pig as they felt to their dog,’ she said.

‘It will be important to ensure that pet owners are appropriately supported in caring for their pet during the pandemic.’

Most of those who took part in the research perceived their pets to be a source of considerable support.

But more than two thirds (68 per cent) reported being worried about how their animals would cope with the drastic change COVID-19 introduced to our way of living.  

Concerns ranged from restrictions on access to veterinary care and exercise, to not knowing who would look after their pet if they fell ill.

Co-author Professor Daniel Mills, a life scientist at the University of Lincoln, said: ‘This work is particularly important at the current time as it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lockdown.

‘However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet’s needs too, as our other work shows failing to meet these can have a detrimental effect for both people and their pets.’

It adds to a growing body of research that shows pets make you healthier, fitter and less stressed.

One study found dog owners live longer than people without a canine pet.

It also revealed older people who live alone are a third less likely to die after a heart attack if they have a furry friend at home, according to the Swedish researchers. 

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