Pandemic pets: How the Covid crisis has had a major impact on our four-legged friends

One of ‘Lily’s Kittens’ at Northwood Grange Cattery, Whitchurch. Photo: Megan Howe

Last year there was a boom in pet ownership, with 3.2 million households in the UK acquiring a pet and 17 million households becoming responsible for the welfare of a pet. pet, according to PFMA data.

A University of York study also reported that more than 90% of people surveyed said their pet had helped them emotionally during lockdown.

But while it has been recognized that owning a pet can be good for a person’s mental health and well-being, concerns have been raised about the impact on pets themselves.

Here we look at three main ways the Covid crisis has taken its toll on animals.

Nick Jones MA has been working as a dog behaviorist for around 20 years and runs his own business – Alpha Dog Behavior Ltd – based in Bewdley.

He has noticed significant changes in his workload since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and has reflected on some of the changes he has noticed:

Nick suggested that for dogs with separation anxiety – who can have difficulty being left alone – the key is to make short starts and build on that.

He also suggested that providing a dog with a subject of interest can be a good distraction while the owner is away, i.e. a stuffed toy or a frill rug.

Nick recommended using the “traffic life method” for socialization where an owner can move between the “green” or “amber” scenarios until their dog can comfortably handle one type of environment” red” (the most difficult).

There are also organizations that advise and support landlords:

“The cost of puppies has gone up dramatically by the thousands,” Nick also pointed out.

According to a recent report from Pets4Homes, the average price for puppies in September last year was £1,912, up from £817 in September 2019.

This increase in the price of puppies, according to Nick, can cause problems because people are willing to pay a lot of money for their puppy.

Nick Jones with his dog Ruby. Photo: Megan Howe

“What makes this all even worse,” Nick explained, “is that the quality of the pup isn’t necessarily that good.

“The pup may have been raised under the wrong circumstances, without proper consideration of the genetic makeup of the parents and how this will affect the litter of the offspring.

“And so we can see genetic behavior issues in these litters,” Nick said.

Yvonne Jennison, who runs Northwood Grange Cattery in Whitchurch, in partnership with RSCPA Shropshire, has noticed an increase in the number of cats in her care as well as a national need for spaces.

“The RSPCA phoned me and said we could take a supplement as they were inundated with cats in 2020,” Yvonne said.

Before Covid, Yvonne saw around 20 kittens come into the cattery and over the past year that number has risen to around 70.

Yvonne Jennison from Northwood Grange Cattery holding Ruby who is looking for adoption. Photo: Megan Howe

Yvonne said she has also noticed an increase in the number of “needy cats” – those with complications that may require additional care – including cats with stress cystitis, excessive grooming caused by stress, cats who were not eating and had not been skinned or dewormed.

“It’s also stressful for many owners to have to hand over their cats, and it’s not their fault whether it’s their economic situation or their circumstances change,” Yvonne said.

Zoe Hinton, from RSPCA Shropshire, said: ‘I would also assume that many people during lockdown have failed to get their cats neutered, so we’ve had a lot more kittens in the last couple of years than we don’t. ‘ve had before.”

Cats Protection’s Cats And Their Stats (CATS) report found that 1.3 million cats in the UK (12%) are unneutered.

Sarah Reid, spay/neuter manager at Cat’s Protection, said: ‘We don’t have any formal statistics on the rising cost of spay/neuter, although we are obviously aware that costs have risen along with everything else. . We work with veterinary practices across the UK to help people on low incomes sterilize their pets.

“We always recommend that people properly assess what an animal is going to cost them before acquiring one, and that they prioritize neutering.”

Now that restrictions have eased, with people returning to work in the office and spending more time outdoors, there may be some uncertainty about the future of pandemic pets.

Dogs Trust has reported a post-‘Freedom Day’ spike in owners considering adopting pets.

In July, the charity released data that revealed a 182% increase in traffic to “Ditch Your Dogs” pages from pre-pandemic levels (July 2021 vs February 2020).

Owen Sharp, Managing Director of Dogs Trust, said: “As ownership circumstances change, puppies become rambunctious ‘teenagers’ and the country unlocks, many owners are being forced to reconsider their pet’s place in life. company in their life.

“The needs of dogs and their owners, however, are constantly changing. As the ‘new normal’ takes hold, it’s critical that we understand exactly what support we can offer to keep our pets in their loving homes. »

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