Novice pet owners who adopted a dog or perhaps a cat during the extended lockdown in the UK because of the Covid pandemic are regretting it because the reality of looking after a companion animal does not match up to their dream.
And if 46% of 18-34-year-olds regret adopting a pet, 32% in the age bracket 35-54 feel the same. The pet that they most regret adopting is the rabbit. They are seen as a starter pet said Linda Cantle from ‘Wood Green, The Animals Charity’. She reports that her charity is receiving 66% more calls monthly on their pet behaviour helpline.
Linda says that rabbits are not as suitable as a starter pet as people think because they aren’t particularly sociable with children and when they’re picked up, they can reject this form of human behaviour by kicking. This puts people off handling them. In addition, rabbits are high maintenance and they defecate 200-300 times daily! Further, they need a companion and a large run or they’ll become depressed.
When a rabbit is depressed, they become very quiet and eat less. They sleep a lot and hide. This is not the sort of interaction that people want to see. Linda says that twice as many rabbit owners have called the charity for advice this year compared with last.
The charity has been receiving lots more requests for advice on pet ownership in classes, free workshops or one-on-one advice sessions.
The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors has seen a doubling in demand. Cats may have suffered more than dogs. At least dogs during lockdown could go for a walk with their owner as they had plenty of time on their hands but with the kids at home and not at school cats may have struggled with the increased noise and disruption levels. This may have caused stress which in turn can lead to inappropriate elimination. It’s the kind of situation which can lead to the relinquishment of a pet especially if the owner is inexperienced.
Linda Cantle said that she is receiving calls about cats over-grooming. This, as we know, is a sign of stress. And when the lockdown has been lifted dogs are suddenly meeting strange people on their territory. Because the dogs have not been trained properly, they bark. This can introduce stress into the household. There are reports that dogs are being relinquished more often than normal.
There are reports of novice dog owners seeking advice because their dog is being aggressive to other dogs. This is possibly due to the very steep increase in puppy ownership in the country. I’ve read that 2 million puppies and adult dogs were adopted during the lockdown which lasted on and off about 18 months. When untrained young dogs go out for a walk with their novice owner and there are more dogs about it can lead to aggressive interactions.
Apparently, many puppy classes were cancelled during lockdown and with their owners socially distancing it meant that puppies did not learn to socialise in the normal way. Cantle says that there’s been an increase in out-of-control dogs in public places which has reduced the tolerance that the public has for dogs. And she says that new dog owners are showing a lack of etiquette which has upset her.
There is no doubt that the Covid pandemic has had a dramatic impact on pet ownership in the country particularly with respect to dogs. The surge in adoptions has also resulted in a surge in crime in terms of stealing dogs and illegal importation of puppies from puppy farms on the continent. All-in-all, there’s been quite a negative spin-off in terms of dog welfare. And now when novice pet owners want to relinquish their expensive pet, they’re going to sell them online and so the poor dog is pushed from pillar to post which will probably have a negative impact on their behaviour.
Of course, there have been positives too such as increased adoptions of rescue animals but were all of these for the life of the animal?