What is it about?

When the pandemic started around March 2020, there was huge increase in demand for pet adoptions. We saw this as a unique opportunity to understand the role that pets play for families with kids, at a time when we had less access to our usual supports that keep us healthy and well. We were particularly interested in mental health and attachment to our pets, as well as the benefits and the challenges of having a family pet during covid. So, we did a national survey of more than 1,000 parents with a child under 18 and a cat or dog (July to October 2020). We found that 1 in 5 families had acquired a new cat or dog during COVID-19 (since March 2020). One of the most important findings from the survey was that children who were feeling anxious tended to have stronger attachment to their pet. Parents who had a strong emotional connection with their pet also had poorer mental health.

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Why is it important?

Our findings suggest that families turned to their pets as a source of comfort, during a time when traditional social supports were less accessible. There is a need to carefully monitor the transition back to work and school. Some families might require ongoing psychological supports for themselves, as well as veterinary care to manage separation anxiety in pets.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Parent and child mental health during COVID-19 in Australia: The role of pet attachment, PLoS ONE, July 2022, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0271687.
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