April 20, 2021 • Wellbeing5 min read

Pets (and plants) have helped us get through the pandemic | City Pantry

Our Marketing Director Shane Mansfield talks about the well-being benefits of having a pet (or plants!), as well as his own experiences of bringing a new, furry bundle of joy into his own home last year.

As the UK went into lockdown and many started working from home full-time, pet sales and adoptions went through the roof. In fact, over three million households in the UK have welcomed a pet into their lives since the start of the pandemic, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, bringing the number of pet-owning homes up to 17 million. And I’m happy to say that my home is one of them.

We brought Scout, our loveable, dopey Working Cocker Spaniel, into our home in April 2020. Having grown up with dogs myself, I’d always wanted one of my own, but working in an office full-time stood in the way. When we transitioned to working from home during the pandemic, I felt it was finally the right time to ‘onboard’ a four-legged friend, so my wife and I went about selecting a suitable candidate. Scout made the cut, balancing the required looks my wife insisted on (it had to be cute) with my own criteria - it just had to be a dog.

He’s already brought so much to our family - laughter, joy, and plenty of opportunities to get outside in the fresh air. Don’t get me wrong, Scout can be a handful - he has boundless energy, loves to chew up important letters the moment they come through our letterbox, and loves play fighting with my two boys while I’m trying to host important meetings. But we love him, and he’s certainly helped us get through the pandemic.

And we don’t seem to be the only ones feeling the well-being benefits of having a waggy-tailed companion at home. According to a YouGov survey we carried out this month, 75% of owners say that their pet has helped their mental health during lockdown.

The Mental Health Foundation states that pets may help people with depression, as well as those experiencing loneliness. We’ve probably all experienced the latter at some point over the past 12 months of social distancing measures and widespread work-from-home policies. There’s no doubt that having another living, breathing creature by your side helps curb feelings of isolation.

While we’ve been restricted in so many ways this past year, our pets have also given us a little taste of freedom. Whether that’s long walks in the park, watching them running around the living room at the speed of light during a spontaneous case of the ‘zoomies’, or chatting to them like you would with your colleagues throughout the day. There’s just something comforting about sharing your life and home with a pet.

We've been so thankful for our pets, in fact, that 41% of us have treated them more than usual while we've been at home during lockdown, including giving them longer walks, handing over more tasty treats, buying them new toys, and spending more time playing with them.

However, the so-called ‘pandemic puppies’ of 2020 will be with us for the next 10-15 years, so it’s important that new owners do their research before committing. Pets are hard work, take up a lot of time, and looking after them properly can be expensive. We also have to look ahead to when offices do reopen. Will you be able to bring your pet to work with you? Who’s there to look after them if you can’t? Will they suffer from separation anxiety after spending the majority of their life next to you? There’s a lot to think about.

So, not everyone can get a pet - whether it’s due to rental restrictions, financial constraints, allergies, or something else entirely. Thankfully, there is an alternative that reaps many similar well-being benefits: plant ‘babies’. 

Houseplants have become so popular during the pandemic that online plant store Patch reported a sales increase of 500% during lockdown. And you can see why. Plants don’t require the same time commitment as pets, but still give owners an opportunity to nurture and raise a living thing, and you can have dozens of them in all shapes and sizes without your colleagues so much as batting an eyelid on Zoom calls! Plants have also proven to be a great way of bringing the outside in - something that’s so important when we’ve been stuck inside for such long periods of time. 

Some people even thank houseplants for helping them with loneliness caused by lockdown, so the companionship aspect is there too. And while plants aren’t ideal for cuddles on the couch (step away from the cactus), at least they don’t bark/meow/jump on your keyboard during important meetings with clients!

So, whether it’s puppies or plants, one thing is for certain: our well-being is better off because of them. Well, for the most part, anyway…