The Sun online newspaper reports that more than half of UK cat owners claim that their feline friends have become friendlier during lockdown. Almost 90 percent said that their pet – either a dog or cat – had provided them with emotional support during the lengthy coronavirus pandemic lockdown in the UK. This is very relevant today because The Times reports that levels of depression in British adults have almost doubled during the pandemic. The figures come from the Office for National Statistics. We don’t know how many in the survey lived with a companion animal. We do know, though, that companion animals help to alleviate depression.
The Sun newspaper tell us the story of Lottie Clements who runs a pet accessory business in Maldon, Essex. She said that her male cat Humphrey has become more affectionate. He’s not a particularly cuddly cat but now wants to sit on her lap when she watches television, which he did not do before the lockdown. And he likes to come to bed with her and her partner. He also awaits for her in the garden when she comes back from a walk with the dogs.
It’s all great and positive indicating a close bond between her and her “Humph”. The bond has been enhanced because of her added presence in the home during lockdown. She’s been around Humphrey more and therefore had a chance to connect more with him. Common sense stuff.
It shows how it is quite easy to dispel the misconception that domestic cats can be aloof. Perhaps the aloofness that some people describe is because of the behaviour of the cat caretaker and not the cat themselves. It is up to the cat owner to manage the relationship and make it better. The humans dictate the terms. They can make it worse or better. There can be situations where the owner becomes distanced from their cat and then dislikes the cat for being aloof and difficult.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realise that the more time you spend with your cat, provided it is the right kind of interaction, the better and closer the relationship will be. The “right kind of interaction” is gentle and respectful of a cat’s potential anxieties and the raw wildcat inside her.
I’ve got to come to the conclusion that this is another positive spin-off from the coronavirus pandemic. In the UK, people will be working from home far more often than before and for many it will be a permanent change. The pandemic has caused a paradigm shift in human behaviour with respect to work practices which is going to benefit domestic cats and dogs. People are going be there for them more often and for longer. This is the way it should be. It is actually a reversion back to the early years of cat domestication thousands of years ago. Modern work practices (chasing around back and from the office) are far from ideal for cat owners.
And if some cat owners do go back to the office to work as they did before, perhaps the lessons learned from the lockdown concerning pet ownership will have been learned and they will spend more time with their cat or dog.