How Stay-at-Home Orders Have Affected Pets and Their Owners

There’s that saying, "You don’t really know someone until you travel." (From personal experience, I have found this to be true.) Flip "travel" with its opposing counterpart, and the following can be equally true: "You don’t really know someone until you’ve experienced extended stay-at-home orders together." These experiences, however, need not be negative—and need not be exclusive to humans. In fact, a new survey by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 84 percent of pet owners feel more attuned to their pet’s health after spending more time at home due to stay-at-home orders. This suggests, according to company officials, that staying home with our cats and dogs is about more than extra playtime and treats, it may have lasting effects on how people approach pet ownership.

"The human-animal bond now, more than ever, plays an integral role in people’s lives," said Molly McAllister, chief medical officer at Banfield Pet Hospital. "At Banfield, we are firm believers that regular preventive veterinary care is key to helping our pets live happy, healthy lives. This survey shows that pets are always here for us—even, and especially, during the most difficult of times—and we’re encouraged that as a result of spending more time together, people are committed to finding new ways to better be there for their pets."

As people are spending more time at home than ever before, 20 percent of respondents said that they prefer working alongside their pets over their co-workers. With some states easing stay-at-home orders, 73 percent of people are concerned about going back to the office and spending time away from their pets, with 59 percent worried their dog or cat may suffer from separation anxiety once their new work schedule begins.

As pet owners adjust to their new normal, 67 percent expect to make changes in how they care for their pet once they’re not home as often. In addition, 47 percent said that they are committed to spending more quality time with their pets when they are home, 21 percent will adjust their schedule to be at home with their pets more often and 10 percent plan to adopt another pet to help keep their dog or cat company.

Pet owners attested that their pets continue to bring joy and comfort, especially during the stay-at-home orders. For example, 45 percent said that their household’s happiness increased while spending more time with their pet at home, and 39 percent revealed that their pet helped lower their anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

The survey also revealed that 47 percent of millennials found increased emotional support from their pets, compared to 43 percent of gen Zers and 43 percent of gen Xers.

Pets are happier, too, according to the survey. About one-third of owners believed their pets appeared to be happier (38 percent) and more playful (35 percent) during this time. Pets are also receiving extra "TLC," with 65 percent of owners showing them increased affection. They might be getting extra treats as well, as 33 percent of owners said that their pet has gained weight during the stay-at-home orders, according to the survey.

Communication, although one-way so to speak, has also increased. Take, for example, the number of pet owners who admitted to talking to their pets more than ever before the pandemic, with cat owners (51 percent) being chattier than dog owners (47 percent). The survey also revealed that women (50 percent) talked to their pets more than men (44 percent), and boomers / gen Xers (each at 49 percent) talked to their pets more than gen Zers (46 percent) and millennials (45 percent).

Spending more time with their pets may have made people more confident owners: 44 percent of people felt they are more responsible and attentive towards their dog or cat, 37 percent are paying more attention to their pet’s personal care such as dental health and 42 percent are exercising their pets more than before the pandemic.

Owners are even learning new things about their pets, according to the survey, with 46 percent of pet owners saying their pet is more active than they imagined before spending the additional time at home with them during the day.

Further, as company officials noted, people are being forward-thinking about their pets’ health, as 20 percent are committed to taking their pets to the veterinarian for preventive care check-ups more often than before, and 41 percent contacted their veterinarian during stay-at-home orders, whether in person, via phone or through telehealth service.

Banfield Pet Hospital has seen this first hand through its Vet Chat, which provides their Optimum Wellness Plan clients access to one-on-one chat with a veterinarian anytime. The Portland, Ore.-based company reported a nearly 90 percent increase in Vet Chat activity since the beginning of March, when stay-at-home orders began.

The survey was conducted May 11-15 by Wakefield Research among 1,000 U.S. dog and cat owners.