The Perceived Impact of The First UK COVID-19 Lockdown on Companion Animal Welfare and Behaviour: A Mixed-Method Study of Associations with Owner Mental Health

Shoesmith, Emily, Assis, Luciana, Shahab, Lion , Ratschen, Elena, Toner, Paul, Kale, Dimitra, Reeve, Catherine and Mills, Daniel (2021) The Perceived Impact of The First UK COVID-19 Lockdown on Companion Animal Welfare and Behaviour: A Mixed-Method Study of Associations with Owner Mental Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18 (11). p. 6171. ISSN 1660-4601

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18116171

Documents
The Perceived Impact of The First UK COVID-19 Lockdown on Companion Animal Welfare and Behaviour: A Mixed-Method Study of Associations with Owner Mental Health
Published Open Access manuscript
[img]
[Download]
[img]
Preview
PDF
Shoesmith, E. et al. (2021) The Perceived Impact of The First UK COVID-19 Lockdown on Companion Animal Welfare and Behaviour - A Mixed-Method Study of Associations with Owner.pdf - Whole Document
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

987kB
Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

Background: Companion animals may be a positive presence for their owners during the
COVID-19 pandemic. However, the welfare of a companion animal is strongly influenced by the
behaviour of their owners, as well as their physical and social environment. We aimed to investigate
the reported changes in companion animal welfare and behaviour and to examine the association
between these changes and companion animal owners’ mental health. Methods: A cross-sectional
online survey of UK residents over 18 years of age was conducted between April and June 2020
(n = 5926). The questionnaire included validated, bespoke items measuring outcomes related to
mental health, human-animal bonds and reported changes in animal welfare and behaviour. The
final item of the survey invited open-ended free-text responses, allowing participants to describe
experiences associated with human-animal relationships during the first UK lockdown phase. Results:
Animal owners made up 89.8% of the sample (n = 5323), of whom 67.3% reported changes in
their animal’s welfare and behaviour during the first lockdown phase (n = 3583). These reported
changes were reduced to a positive (0–7) and negative (0–5) welfare scale, following principal
component analysis (PCA) of 17 items. Participants reported more positive changes for cats, whereas
more negative changes were reported for dogs. Thematic analysis identified three main themes
relating to the positive and negative impact on companion animals of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Generalised linear models indicated that companion animal owners with poorer mental health
scores pre-lockdown reported fewer negative changes in animal welfare and behaviour. However,
companion animal owners with poorer mental health scores since lockdown reported more changes,
both positive and negative, in animal welfare and behaviour. Conclusion: Our findings extend
previous insights into perceived welfare and behaviour changes on a very limited range of species to
a wider range of companion animals. Owner mental health status has a clear, albeit small, effect on
companion animal welfare and behaviour.

Keywords:human-animal interaction, human-animal relationships, companion animals, animal welfare, animal behaviour, COVID-19, mental health, Loneliness
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D390 Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
Related URLs:
ID Code:46660
Deposited On:05 Oct 2021 14:23

Repository Staff Only: item control page