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Our best friends - How pets are helping to ease the anxiety of staying at home

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 April 2020

Amy with Poppy the dog Picture: CLAIRE CALVER

Amy with Poppy the dog Picture: CLAIRE CALVER

Claire Calver

With so many of us currently working from home and feeling isolated, our cats, dogs and rabbits are stepping in to provide some much-needed love and comfort.

Justin Watson's Scottish terrier Tilly Picture: JUSTIN WATSONJustin Watson's Scottish terrier Tilly Picture: JUSTIN WATSON

Being with a pet can help to dispel anxiety and make it easier to cope with the whole current situation - although they can also get in the way of work at times.

Are Pip and Coco Are Pip and Coco "practising social distancing" here? Picture: RUTH DENNIS

Claire Sargent has a pair of dogs which have helped to lighten her life over the past weeks.

Ruby and Ava the rehomed greyhounds. Picture: CLAIRE SARGENTRuby and Ava the rehomed greyhounds. Picture: CLAIRE SARGENT

She writes: “Ruby and Ava, our re-homed Italian Greyhounds, have made life in lockdown for my little family an absolute delight, and have helped me cope with some very challenging days!

Katie Stafford's pet cat Poppy Picture: KATIE STAFFORDKatie Stafford's pet cat Poppy Picture: KATIE STAFFORD

“They are naturally into everything anyway, so we’ve been creative with some fun games for them, but when they’re not eating or being insanely cute/naughty they sleep... and give the best cuddles.

Andy Culham's Labradoodle Jasper Picture: ANDY CULHAMAndy Culham's Labradoodle Jasper Picture: ANDY CULHAM

“For some reason, my video calls are timed perfectly for a dog walking past the house, or a delivery person knocking on the door, which means all hell breaks loose. But they are adapting very well to life with their owners working from home.

Dudley the apricot cockapoo is enjoying his owners working from home Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNDudley the apricot cockapoo is enjoying his owners working from home Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“At the end of a stressful day, they’ll cuddle me on the sofa... who could resist those beautiful eyes and soft ears?”

Sarah Pike with Cassie, who loves to sit on her lap. Picture: SARAH PIKESarah Pike with Cassie, who loves to sit on her lap. Picture: SARAH PIKE

Some pets are noticeably even happier than usual because their owners are suddenly at home so much.

Cheski the house bunny Picture: RACHEL FORTNUM-ADAMSCheski the house bunny Picture: RACHEL FORTNUM-ADAMS

Katie Stafford said: “My cat Poppy loves company anyway, so the current situation is the best thing ever for her.

Oscar the cat helps owner Hayley Sermons to switch off Picture: HAYLEY SERMONSOscar the cat helps owner Hayley Sermons to switch off Picture: HAYLEY SERMONS

“She makes sure she alternates with who she spends her days with, whether it’s me or my husband upstairs, and we get to alternately endure her high-pitched snoring.

Sarah Gallagher's cat got high up a tree and couldn’t get down - but managed it in the end! Picture: SARAH GALLAGHERSarah Gallagher's cat got high up a tree and couldn’t get down - but managed it in the end! Picture: SARAH GALLAGHER

“She also has an interesting habit of obsessively getting in the way during video calls - she’s always done it and nudges the device endlessly, paws at us and purrs loudly - not sure what causes that!

Katie Stafford's pet cat Poppy Picture: KATIE STAFFORDKatie Stafford's pet cat Poppy Picture: KATIE STAFFORD

“But she’s life-saving for anxiety and that’s one of the reasons we got her nearly three years ago now. She’s changed our world completely.”

Benson on a walk in Great Wenham Picture: SOPHIE BARNETTBenson on a walk in Great Wenham Picture: SOPHIE BARNETT

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Sarah Lucy Brown writes: “Dudley is really enjoying having my partner Craig and I work from home. He hasn’t been on his own now for three weeks - so his tail hasn’t stopped wagging!

Dulcie with Willow the house bunny. Picture: ZOE LYNCHDulcie with Willow the house bunny. Picture: ZOE LYNCH

“He loves to be cuddled the whole time, and has made himself a new bed behind Craig’s desk in his makeshift office in our dining room.

“It’s great to have him around for some company and ensures we get out everyday for a good walk. We love him so much and he brings us a lot of happiness.”

Sophie Barnett has also found that a bonus of working from home is being with her dog Benson more. She said: “He is making me very distracted!

“But he is helping to keep me company, keeping my feet warm under my desk and helping to give me a break on our daily walk. Not very good at making tea, though.”

Actor and drama facilitator Ruth Dennis said: “Our cats Pip and Coco have provided both company and entertainment for all of us in the Dennis household.

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“They were a bit miffed the first week, perhaps wondering why there never seemed to be a quiet place to sleep but now they seek us out.”

Sarah Pike’s spaniel, Cassie, is enjoying having her at home. She writes: “I sadly lost my other dog last week to old age, so Cassie is keeping me company with the occasional sit on my lap and cuddle as I type!”

Staff at One Sixth Form College in Ipswich are busy working from home, continuing to teach lessons and help students during self-isolation. Members of staff are enjoying being with their dogs in their home workplace.

Marketing manager Frances Vickerstaff said, “Owners have been enjoying increased time together with their dogs and discussing how great they have been for their wellbeing.

“They are bringing comfort to colleagues through this difficult time - although they aren’t bringing much to the party when it comes to conference calls.”

Foundation learning teacher Andy Culham has been spending time with his seven-year-old Labradoodle, Jasper. He said: “My wife works for the NHS, so I spend a lot of my time on my own at home. Jasper gives so much to both of us.”

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Justin Watson works for European Electronique, which manages all IT provision at One, and has Scottish terrier Tilly constantly by his side. He said: “Tilly has been helping everyone in my house with morale.”

Suffolk New College staff are also working from home. Hayley Sermons, from Ipswich, said: “Oscar, my cat, is helping me switch off at the end of the day by coming and sitting on my laptop. He does wonders for my work-life balance.”

Her colleague Claire Calver, from Needham Market, said, “My daughter Amy and our dog Poppy are both supporting each other through the lockdown.”

Amy is one of many children who are being helped by their family pets, providing company during the weeks when they can’t see their schoolfriends.

Twitter user Zoe Lynch said her household’s pet rabbit is proving a help to daughter Dulcie during time away from school.

Zoe writes: “Since the lockdown, wherever we are, Willow follows. She’s always been our pal, but since the change, if we are feeling down, she’s always next to us for a smooch, and that is a great comfort.”

Rachel Fortnum-Adams, from Ipswich, also has a house bunny which is enjoying the fact there are more people in the house.

She writes: “Cheski, our house bunny, is wondering what’s going on as we are all at home every day - she was enjoying sitting at my daughter’s desk last week while she did school work.”

However, Tina Gant from Hadleigh said: “Moonlight, our cuddly cat, is not much help keeping us company, because she is always asleep!

“She takes up so much room on the sofa, the kids are having to run around the garden because there is nowhere to sit.”

Lockdown support for your pet

While it is enjoyable to be with animals during this difficult time, many people are worried about the possible impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their pets and how to look after them during this time.

However, there is a whole network of community groups across Norfolk and Suffolk which can help and give support with everything from dog walking to picking up vet prescriptions if you have to self-isolate or become ill.

The RSPCA has various articles with advice on how to look after pets during this time on its blog - including an article on DIY loo roll games to keep pets entertained.


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