The role of pets in frightening times

Pets not only give us a reason to go for a walk, but also contribute greatly to people’s mental well being, something that is under siege during this pandemic.

pets at work, dogs, cats


Saturday is National Pet Day and a reminder of the crucial role pets may be playing in their owners’ physical and mental well being at this time. Whether it is getting people out for a walk – particularly teenagers – or just giving the entire family joy at an incredibly challenging time, pets can be an enormous boon.

While pet duties often fall to already overloaded working parents, on top of all the extra load of homeschooling and homeworking facing many at this time, they can also be a calming influence, even if they are an extra expense at a time when finances are likely to be stretched.

Unless, of course, you have cats. Not only are the reports that they can catch coronavirus [but not transmit it to humans] a bit worrying, but cats are renowned for being really fussy about food. They have no idea that we are in a crisis and they just can’t turn their noses up at whatever Tesco had left over after people started panic buying pet food. Because after pasta, toilet paper and tinned tomatoes the next most panic bought item in our neck of the woods appears to be pet food. Only one bag of hamster food was left last time I went to the supermarket.

Anxiety is at record levels due to coronavirus and if you can get through the next few weeks, the after effects of lockdown and the current and impending financial disaster are likely to, if not increase extreme levels of worry and trauma, then normalise them.

It will all depend on how we respond. We have seen amazing acts of kindness and sacrifice over the last weeks, showing that we are capable of a lot more than we think. The thing this outbreak has taught us is that humans are profoundly social beings and that, far from there being no such thing as society, as Margaret Thatcher so famously said, a feeling of belonging to something bigger is vital to our sense of well being.

As we acclimatise to seeing our relatives and friends on screens or hearing them on the phone rather than seeing them in person, not knowing when – and in some cases if – we will see them again, we miss that sense of close contact. We often moan about being in lockdown with bored or tetchy children, but at least we are not alone and we can hug them and keep them close – unless, of course, they shudder at the very thought of being hugged by their parents. Pets fulfill a hugely important role in this respect, particularly for those isolating on their own. They take us out of ourselves and give us some sort of sense of normality and calm in a frightening world.

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