The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on human-pet interactions within New Zealand, particularly during lockdown, was investigated via two national surveys. In Survey 1, pet owners (n = 686) responded during the final week of the five-week Alert Level 4 lockdown (highest level of restrictions - April 2020), and survey 2 involved 498 respondents during July 2020 whilst at Alert Level 1 (lowest level of restrictions). During the lockdown, 54.7% of owners felt that their pets' wellbeing was better than usual, while only 7.4% felt that it was worse. Most respondents (84.0%) could list at least one benefit of lockdown for their pets, and they noted pets were engaged with more play (61.7%) and exercise (49.7%) than pre-lockdown. Many respondents (40.3%) expressed that they were concerned about their pet's wellbeing after lockdown, with pets missing company/attention and separation anxiety being major themes. In Survey 2, 27.9% of respondents reported that they continued to engage in increased rates of play with their pets after lockdown, however, the higher levels of pet exercise were not maintained. Just over one-third (35.9%) of owners took steps to prepare their pets to transition out of lockdown. The results indicate that pets may have enjoyed improved welfare during lockdown due to the possibility of increased human-pet interaction. The steps taken by owners to prepare animals for a return to normal life may enhance pet wellbeing long-term if maintained.
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