IT'S a well-known fact that pet ownership can bring great health benefits and never more so than during lockdown. In fact, recent research has shown that having a pet as a companion is linked with less deterioration in mental health and a lesser feeling of loneliness.
During lockdown, cats and dogs in particular have made the last year that little bit easier.
However, as restrictions begin to ease, pet owners need to consider the anxiety that animals may face caused by separation from their owners, who they have been spending so much time with over lockdown.
"It’s important to be mindful of this and be patient with dogs in particular who may show some behaviour related to stress," said Richard Robinson, co-ordinator of Grovehill Animal Trust, Sixmilecross.
"There are various things which can be done to minimise stress.
Go for a walk in the morning and evening.
"When leaving the house do so quietly without making a fuss. If possible, have a friend or neighbour check on your pet during the day and leave a radio on in the background for company.
"There are also doggy day care services and dog walkers who can fill in for you while you’re at work.
"Hopefully with a little time and patience your pet will soon adjust to the new routine and will feel more relaxed knowing that you’ll be reunited at the end of the working day. “
Janice Porter, chairperson of Grovehill Animal Trust, added: "During the past year I’ve noticed an increase in the number of dogs being walked around the town and local area.
"With many folks being on furlough or working from home lots of dogs have benefited from increased exercise. Being out in the fresh air is great for both dogs and their owners.
"Many people have felt isolated from family and friends during lockdown and indeed for some their pet has been their only source of company. Pet ownership has also increased during recent months.
"Sadly the increased demand for dogs has led to a rise in puppy farming and even dog theft in some areas.
"Whilst I believe that pets can be a wonderful addition to a family at Grovehill we encourage careful consideration to be given prior to getting a pet.
A pet is a financial commitment and requires time, care and affection."