Working from home with a pet improves our wellbeing, says psychologist

If you told us a year ago that our work meetings would be gatecrashed by a cat walking across the boss’ desk we would have laughed – but 2020 has changed the rules on typical colleague catch-ups.

Many of us are still working from home during the current climate and one unexpected perk is that we are spending more time with our pets.

In fact, for many of us our four-legged companions have become our new co-workers.

A study by Cats Protection surveyed around 700 owners that work from home to find out more about this unique working relationship.

Of those questioned, 63 per cent said their cat calmed them down, while 56 per cent said they were less lonely because of them.

More than half (53 per cent) said they had witnessed their cat doing something comedic such as walking across the laptop while working that had cheered them up.

And, in lieu of a lunchtime natter with deskmates, some are even turning to their cat for a pep talk, with four out of ten people saying they discussed work problems with their moggy.

Gina Akers, who recently judged Cats Protection’s Alternative Cat Awards, said: “My cats, Sunny and Star, sit next to me during the times when I am working.

“Sunny has learned to swipe through images on my laptop or phone until he finds a picture he likes while Star will steal the pens off my desk.

“They never fail to brighten up my working day.”

But what exactly is it that makes pets so endearing to us – especially while we work from home?

Jo Hemmings is a behavioural psychologist who has been working with pet nutritionists, Purina, on highlighting the benefits – and pitfalls – of working alongside your pet.

Jo said: “It just creates a sense of normality and life. One of the things about pets is that for them every day is just another day.

“There’s something quite comforting about an animal that doesn’t have a clue about things that might be stressing us all out. It’s very soothing to have that simple perspective.

“Animals constantly live in the moment, and having them around provides a useful reminder to do the same in a world where we can easily become too worried about what might happen in the future.”

Jo also believes that our pets are happier than ever now that we are working more from home. Jo has a cat that likes to sit close by while she’s working, sometimes even on the client sofa she uses for counselling sessions.

She believes there’s something very special between people and their pet.

Jo said: “They reduce the levels of cortisol and of adrenaline in your bloodstream, keeping anxiety under control, keeping the situation that bit calmer.”

For anyone who has had their dog or cat interrupt a Zoom call, you also know that our pets are a great conversation starter and often break the ice when meeting unfamiliar people.

For more information and advice on getting the most out of working from with pets, Purina has a wealth of resources on its website.

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