The Well-Being of Companion Animal Caregivers and Their Companion Animals during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Scoping Review

Animals (Basel). 2023 Oct 22;13(20):3294. doi: 10.3390/ani13203294.


It is important to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on animal caregivers and their companion animals in order to inform responses to future crises. Prior research is inconsistent, with the benefits of animal companionship believed to be overstated. In this scoping review, we searched four electronic databases and hand-searched reference lists of included studies. Over 4000 citations were found, and 122 were included in the review. Reflecting on the pre-COVID literature, quantitative evidence of the association between psychological well-being and animal companionship during the pandemic was mixed, with numerous positive, negative, and null findings reported. Studies highlighted the benefits of animal companionship during the pandemic, with animals reported to provide their caregivers with a routine, a sense of greater purpose, a positive distraction from COVID-19, companionship, and emotional support. However, participants also reported concerns about meeting animals' needs, fears of animals catching or spreading the virus, and financial worries. Concerns about what would happen to animals if caregivers were hospitalized led some to delay COVID-19 testing or treatment. Animals also experienced benefits (such as increased companionship and calmer mood) and negative impacts (such as increased clinginess and separation anxiety). Companion animals should be a key consideration in emergency preparedness plans.

Keywords: COVID-19; animal caregivers; companion animals; pet owners; pets; well-being.

Publication types

  • Review