Grounded by Purrs and Petting: Experiences with Companion Cats during COVID-19

Jennifer Currin-McCulloch1, Cori Bussolari2, Wendy Packman3, Lori Kogan4, Phyllis Erdman5

1Colorado State University, School of Social Work
2Professor Ermita, University of San Francisco, Department of Clinical Psychology
3Paolo Alto University, Department of Psychology
4Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
5Washington State University, Department of Kinesiology and Educational Psychology

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated negative impacts on the psychological well-being of humans around the world. Most communities have followed social distancing mandates, resulting in social isolation and changes to daily work and social routines. Extended periods of social isolation can lead to boredom, loneliness, and increased risk for physical and mental health concerns. For many individuals during the pandemic, their household members and cats have represented their only daily contact with living beings. Cats have been shown to form strong attachments to their owners and to reduce humans’ stress responses, yet there is a dearth of research, especially when compared to dogs. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the thoughts, experiences, and concerns of adults regarding their relationships with their companion cat during the initial months of COVID-19. Data were collected between March 30th and May 1st, 2020, via an online questionnaire. Respondents (n=956) were recruited through social media outlets and human-animal focused organizations. Directed content analysis methods informed the process for discovering themes in the data. Themes include participants’ enhanced bonds, increased quality time, gratitude, worries about their cat’s well-being, and a reduced sense of isolation and emotional distress.
Keywords: companion-animal relationships, human-cat bond, social isolation, cat guardianship

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Keywords: cat guardianship, companion-animal relationships, human-cat bond, social isolation
Posted in Pre-Publication Articles