For pets, the COVID-19 pandemic did not create many changes to their daily habits. While they continued to go about their typical lives, their owners’ routines suddenly came to a halt, giving pets more time to spend with their loving companions. Whether it is an increase in play-time, lack of travel by their owners or their owners’ need for more cuddles, most pets are getting the attention they deserve. And, in return, pets are helping their owners survive these unprecedented times.
While research about how pets can impact their owners’ mental health has been going on for years, the positive effects have been more apparent during the pandemic.
Freshman Melany Kriener is the owner of a male English Pointer named Sebastian. She calls him ‘Bash’ for short. “Every day I spend time with him, whether that’s playing with him or snuggling,” Kriener said.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), pets can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression and feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Interactions with animals can help people manage their long-term mental health conditions. For these reasons, it is clear why having a loving pet has become more appreciated during these times.
“Sebastian has helped me through this pandemic by cheering me up,” Kriener said. “He’s always there if I need to take a break from all my homework, when I’m tired of looking at a screen or just need to take a break from life.”
Sebastian has provided Kriener with plenty of laughs during the pandemic. “One time when I had just finished working out using a yoga mat, my dog came and sat on it. But it wasn’t any old position, it was a downward dog!” Kriener said. “He’s a super silly dog, so that has definitely helped boost my mental health.”
“At the beginning of quarantine, my parents finally agreed to get a puppy,” freshman Jane Kidder said. “I think it was perfect timing.” They welcomed an Old English Sheepdog named Frances, or ‘Frank’ for short, into their family.
“Because we got Frank during the pandemic, I have spent a lot of time with her,” Kidder said. “She was always with me when I was doing remote learning, or just when I was bored.”
Like most puppies, “she is very energetic and requires a lot of attention,” Kidder said. “Whenever I don’t give Frank attention and I’m petting one of my other pets, she acts like a younger sibling and gets jealous.”
“I think Frank has improved my mental health because she always makes me laugh, cuddles with me and makes me play with her,” Kidder said. “I’m very grateful that I had a puppy to keep company during the pandemic.”
“I like spending time with my pets because it’s therapeutic for all of us,” freshman Brianna Sedlak said. “They get the attention they deserve, and I get a feeling of relief when I pet them.” She has three cats (Angel, Hailey and Luna), two guinea pigs (Gilbert and Nutmeg), one dog (Gunner) and one parakeet (Tweety). “I consider them my family, and I would do anything for them.”
“I have definitely spent more time with my pets during the pandemic,” Sedlak said. “I’m an only child, which means I can get bored easily, so I always go to my pets for entertainment.” Her many pets have been keeping her busy. “I’ve been working out with my dog by running with him around the block, training my bird to do little tricks and I’ve made cage ‘decor’ for my guinea pigs.”
Sedlak’s pets have given her a much-appreciated distraction during these unprecedented times. “I do think my pets have helped improve my mental health because by hanging out with them and playing with them, they give me a sense of hope, like everything is going to be okay,” Sedlak said. “A pet can definitely have a positive impact on your mental health because you grow a special bond with them and you start caring about them as you would a human being.”