SINGAPORE – Last August, senior attorney Adeline Chung and her husband welcomed a little bundle of joy into their lives – an energetic Irish corgi named Whiskey, amid the gloom and stress of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since then, the dog has changed not only the couple’s lives, but also that of Ms. Chung’s parents.
“He brought incredible life and joy to the family. My parents are young again … I’ve never seen my father smile the way he does when he plays with whiskey,” said the 37-year-old with a smile.
Ms. Chung is not the only one with such feelings. In a survey by multinational animal health company Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Singapore, 89 percent of respondents said that their pets had a positive impact on their mental well-being during the pandemic.
The survey was conducted here from October 8th to November 27th of this year among 1,018 cat and dog owners. The respondents were by and large, but not 100 percent, representative of the population.
Dr. Armin Wiesler, Regional Managing Director and Head of Animal Health at Boehringer Ingelheim for Southeast Asia and South Korea, said: âWith the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become even clearer that the lives of animals and humans are deeply interconnected and that there are complex ways in which pets are an important factor Play a role in providing physical, mental and emotional support to humans. “
Dr. Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Gleneagles Hospital, told the Straits Times that even before the pandemic, small studies suggested that animal-assisted therapy could relieve anxiety and improve the quality of life of some people, including the elderly and those suffering from chronic mental illness.
While the pandemic has negatively impacted many people’s mental health in many ways, Dr. Lim that there are many ways pets can improve mental health as well.
First, pets can help alleviate loneliness, especially among those who have no other company.
Second, some may feel that having a pet gives their life meaning.
Third, pets can divert the focus from the ailments one is facing and shift it to responsibility for another being.
Fourth, studies have shown that tactile stimulation – like petting a dog – and interactions with pets can reduce stress hormones and increase oxytocin, a feel-good hormone.
Fifth, owners also often need to walk their dogs or engage in activities that encourage exercise.
Finally, Dr. Lim adds: “It is much easier to develop a relationship with pets than with a human, who can be fearful of judgment and rejection.”
Pet owner Cheng Limin agreed. The 37-year-old revenue director who owns a mini dasdog named Chorizo ââsaid, âPeople are great, but they ask you a lot of questions that you can’t answer. But a pet really does give you this unconditional support. “
Ms. Cheng moved to Singapore from Australia in April 2020, just as the country had just entered its breaker phase.
“It was a pretty difficult time … having (chorizo) with me was very comforting – dogs are very sensitive to your moods and she was always with me when I had to deal with something,” said Ms. Cheng, who lives alone.
Both she and Ms. Chung said their pets helped them become more sociable as they have to go out to go for a walk with them.
“But we’d spend a lot more time on Netflix for whiskey,” joked Ms. Chung, who added that her dog also gave structure to her fast-paced life, leading her to eat and take breaks at regular times to care for him.
About a third of those surveyed bought their pets during and after the breaker. ST previously reported an increase in people here interested in adopting or caring for pets during the pandemic.
Dr. Kenneth Tong, senior veterinarian and founder of the Animal and Avian Veterinary Clinic, said some parents may choose to buy a pet because they believe their children will have more time to spend when children are at home during the pandemic spend or keep them distracted.
But he warned, “Don’t get a pet spontaneously. A pet is a lifetime.”
And while he wholeheartedly agreed that pets can have a positive impact on the mental and physical health of their owners, he stressed that getting a pet shouldn’t be viewed as a “quick fix”.
“The pandemic will be short-lived … the animal is a lifetime,” he said, adding that potential pet owners should think long term.
If you buy a pet, you should first find out about the animal, its type and lifespan and think about how much time and space he has for caring for it.
And with Covid-19 becoming endemic and pet owners returning to the office with a pandemic, some might worry about spending less time with their pets.
But Dr. Tong said that if the transition is gradual, most animals can get used to it, and that the quality of time spent with them is more important than the quantity.
“Sometimes when you get home and spend 10, 20 minutes with your pet, that’s a lot better than spending 10 hours at home and sitting in front of your computer all the time,” he said.