Yes, your cat hated having you at home during lockdown, survey says

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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper / CNET

It became a cliché of Coronavirus Lockdown: Dogs were overjoyed that their owners were suddenly home all the time, while cats couldn’t wait for their humans to go back to the office and leave them alone. Even the Wall Street Journal wrote a fun point counterpoint where every pet has their say. (The dog’s headline was “Why Not Work Home Forever?” While the cat’s headline stated bluntly, “America Must Go Back to Work.”)

Now an Australian poll provides some evidence to support the stereotype, at least on the cat side.

Jessica Oliva of James Cook University in North Queensland, Australia, interviewed nearly four hundred people living alone, with or without a dog or cat. The survey aimed to find out whether pet care would protect owners from loneliness and make them more mindful.

She said research showed that interactions with pets weren’t associated with higher levels of mindfulness or lower loneliness, although there were differences between cat and dog owners. Dog owners were forced to take their pets for walks so they would interact more with people and things outside of their home, which was good for their mental health.

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But owners were also asked to interpret how their pets felt about it. Oliva told Australia’s ABC News that almost all dog owners reported that their pets were happy with more owner time, but this has not been confirmed by cat owners.

Dogs, according to the survey, generally became happier and more relaxed from the extra attention, although some people reported that their dogs became more affectionate and needy. Cats have seen a greater variety of changes. Some were positive – some owners reported that their cats were happier, more loving, and more playful. But others said their pets reacted to stereotypical cat ways.

“We got some responses that the cats were abandoned while their owners were at home and invading their room all the time,” said Oliva. “About 50 percent of cat owners said that their cats behaved in a way that their owners have consistently interpreted as ‘out of date’. While nearly 100 percent of dog owners said their dogs loved the fact that it was them “at home all the time.”

The university’s research was published this week in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. Not, as some may have suspected, in the Journal of the Department of “Duh”.

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