Your Pet Cat Might Turn More Affectionate and Clingy During the Pandemic, Says New Study

Many of us have direct experience of how helpful our pets are in the midst of the weird and stressful pandemic and lockdowns. Research has shown that pets, regardless of the species, provide stress relief and reduce loneliness.

Researchers looked at the effects of the pandemic on pets and found that a greater proportion of cat owners said their pet was more loving during the lockdown.

A study at the University of Lincoln

(Photo: Photo by Ilyas Gun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
SAMSUN, TURKEY – JANUARY 07: An official pats a cat in “Cat Town” established on 20 acres of land by the Samsun Metropolitan Municipality for stray cats in Samsun, Turkey on January 7, 2021.

According to the latest study, cats who spend more time being pampered by their owners during lockdown appear to be more clingy. Given that cats have an unwarranted reputation for being aloof, this may come as a surprise to some. The researchers interviewed 5,323 people who owned pets such as horses, reptiles, birds, and fish. When they first locked down in 2020, more than 65 percent of participants noticed changes in their pet’s behavior.

Dogs exhibited the worst effects, became more demanding, and howled when left alone in the house. About 10% of dog, cat, and horse owners said the changes made their pet angry. University of Lincoln researchers found that 35.9 percent of cats received more love from their owners.

They believe this is because people crave more company and intimate physical contact. They speculate that this may have motivated cats to hunt for extra treats and other resources. The results were published in the British Journal of Animal Welfare.

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Cat well in a quarantine kennel

Four questionnaires were completed by owners at the start of their cat’s placement, three months later, and two weeks and three months after the cats left quarantine, to investigate the effects of the quarantine on 16 cats and their owners.

Owners reported that their cats were less clingy, less calm, more hyperactive, more aggressive, more anxious and less playful than before after delivery. The cats were kinder, loving, fearful, and talkative after they were released from custody.

Human behavior has a significant impact on your pets

Emily Shoesmith, a health scientist at the University of York, and her colleagues also examined the mental health of the owners before and during the lockdown to see if it was related to any of the changes. Pets whose owners had poorer mental health ratings prior to lockdown did not show as many changes as those whose mental health deteriorated while in detention.

Schuhmacher and colleagues point out that survey studies have numerous drawbacks, such as self-reported responses, which may represent the owner’s current mood rather than an objective response. Respondents also do not adequately represent the UK population; by far the majority of respondents were female.

“The mental health of the owner has been shown to influence the well-being and behavior of pets,” said Daniel Mills, a clinical animal behavior researcher at the University of Lincoln. “It is certainly something to think about when trying to do what is best for the animals we care for.”

However, this current study complements others showing that changes in human habits have a huge impact on the living things we spend our lives with. It also highlights the need to spend more time with our beloved pets.

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