The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic changes to our lifestyle, particularly affecting our ability to interact “in person” with our social network. These changes have had a detrimental effect on the mental welfare of the global population. The international questionnaire “Pets in Lockdown” was designed to investigate whether feelings of loneliness were affecting the mood of people during the COVID-19 lockdown and whether pet ownership may have had a positive influence on both loneliness and general mood. As expected, higher loneliness scores were associated with higher negative and lower positive affective states. In addition, lower loneliness scores were associated with pet ownership and living with other people, but not with more frequent interactions with people from outside the household, suggesting that physical and close contact has an important role in decreasing feelings of loneliness. Besides the effects on the loneliness score, pet ownership was not associated with positive or negative affective states. The strength of the attachment to animals, measured as the amount of comfort that people obtain from their pets, was stronger in people with potentially limited access to affiliative physical human contact and was associated with both higher positive and negative affective states. Additionally, people obtained significantly more comfort from dogs and horses compared with other pet species. The results suggest that during the confinement period, pets may have benefited people with smaller social networks by alleviating loneliness and offering comfort and embodied close contact.
- Human-Animal Bond