Pets and a Pandemic: An Exploratory Mixed Method Analysis of How the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Dogs, Cats, and Owners
1Department of Psychology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS
2Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS
3Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
The purpose of the present study was to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted dogs, cats, and interactions between these pets and their owners. Participants included 102 dog and/or cat owners residing primarily in the United States. Participants completed an online questionnaire between late April to late May 2020. Analyses included t-tests comparing retrospective estimates of pre-pandemic functioning and functioning during the pandemic, and qualitative thematic analysis was used to analyze participants’ responses to three open-ended questions. Quantitative analyses found that pets and owners spent significantly more time together, with increases in physical contact between owners and pets, exercise with dogs, and engagement in dog-related activities. No significant changes were found regarding owners’ percentage of pet care responsibility, attachment to their pets, pleasantness derived from pet-related activities, or upset feelings toward their pets when comparing pre-pandemic and during pandemic scores. Five themes arose from the thematic analysis: Social/Attachment (i.e., changes to owner-pet, pet-pet, and owner-owner relationships), Physical (i.e., increases in owners’ physical contact and proximity with pets, physical benefits to pets and owners), Psychological (i.e., changes in owners’ and pets’ behavior and emotionality), Safety/Well-Being (i.e., health concerns regarding owners and pets), and Responsibilities/Routines (i.e., changes in owners’ and pets’ daily routines, changes in owners’ responsibilities and productivity). These findings provide valuable insight into how dogs, cats, owners, and interactions between these pets and owners were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as considerations for animal welfare in the wake of the pandemic. Additionally, the study generated many hypotheses pertaining to how and why these changes occurred, providing a foundation for additional research in this area.
Keywords: thematic analysis, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, SARS-CoV-2.qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, SARS-CoV-2, thematic analysis
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