Companion Animals And The COVID-19 Pandemic
U.S. adults are spending about 20% more time at home compared to pre-pandemic times due to remote working and reduced attendance at social events — a surplus of time that has been a boon to companion animals. In March 2021, a national poll of over 1,300 companion animal guardians sought to find out whether and how the pandemic has influenced the relationship between human guardians and their companion animals.
In particular, the poll wanted to know: if spending more time together has changed the value and affection people feel towards their companion animals; if and how caring duties have changed; how much U.S. adults are willing to spend on veterinarian care and whether access to vet care has become easier or more difficult; and how much they know about veterinary insurance covers.
More than half of respondents reported an improved relationship with their nonhuman companions compared to pre-pandemic times. In fact, 58% of the guardians value their companion animals more and 50% feel more affectionate towards them. Of these, 31% and 37%, respectively, reported no change in those measures as they already valued their companions highly. No differences of value and affection between dogs and cats guardians were reported. Interestingly, people living in urban areas showed even higher levels of value (61%) and affection (64%) towards their companions compared to those living in suburban and rural areas. However, 16% of respondents reported difficulties in meeting their companion animals’ needs, with one in five attributing the problem to the inability of relying on others for regular caring duties. Age-wise, 21% of young people (aged 18 to 34 years old) reported difficulties in caring duties compared to only 8% of senior respondents.
When asked about the reasons for acquiring a companion animal, respondents mainly cited loneliness (52%), the ability to spend more time at home (68%) and already wanting a companion animal long before the pandemic (72%). Pandemic animals were acquired mostly through shelters (37%), breeders (20%), as a gift (17%), and from pet stores (16%).
Vet Care And Vet Expenses.
While half of all respondents reported visiting the vet for routine checks and vaccinations once a year, with 25% more often than that, the survey also revealed a connection between income and frequency of vet visits: only two-thirds of respondents reporting a poor financial situation booked annual vet visits.
When it comes to their companion animal’s life, 82% of all respondents said they would be willing to take any necessary measure to save them, as long as they can afford it — while 67% would do so regardless of the cost. Young people seemed slightly more willing to take on extra costs to save their companion animal’s life, with more than half (54%) declaring that they would consider vet costs if their pet was older. However, 28% of respondents would not take expensive measures to save their companion animal’s life, no matter the age. Less wealthy respondents (declaring a poor to fair financial situation for themselves) were more willing to spend as much as needed to save their companion animals. Meanwhile, about 44% of all surveyed people found booking a vet appointment more difficult during the pandemic.
Vet Insurance Policy
Only one in five respondents reported having a ‘pet’ insurance, with 56% of the respondents being familiar with it. Those with less familiarity tended to expect reimbursements for conditions not usually covered by most ‘pet’ insurance policies. Meanwhile, 76% of respondents were aware that insurance reimburses part of vet expenses over $500 in any one year, but 24% of the surveyed sample incorrectly thought that pre-existing conditions would be reimbursed when first signing for insurance coverage. Moreover, more than 40% of the respondents incorrectly believed that vet insurance would also cover routine visits. Finally, 38% of the surveyed people wrongly believed that insurance coverage would spare them of upfront costs. Generally, while insured guardians had a better understanding of vet insurance, only 10% of them were aware of the need to pay upfront for vet care.
The poll summarized in this article suggests that, during the pandemic, the acquisition of companion animals in the U.S. did increase, and while the majority of respondents reported an improvement in their relationship with their companion animals, some negative impacts did emerge. One example is the increased difficulty in meeting animals’ needs without the help of others, and misinformation concerning vet insurance policies. Moreover, the survey underlined the difficulties in providing annual vet checks for those with a poor financial situation. In this context, animal advocates, veterinarians, and animal rights associations can use this data to deliver information concerning adequate vet care and affordable and comprehensive insurance schemes. In fact, as more people have brought companion animals into their lives, it’s more important to correct inaccurate information than ever before.