Parents, Pets & Pandemic

About the project

The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread and significant changes to the ways that we work, live, and study, disrupting opportunities to engage in social connections that help keep us mentally well. Parents and children have spent more time at home together with their pets, and there has been enormous demand for pet adoptions. So, what role do pets play for families with children during this time of change and uncertainty?

The aims of this research project were to understand:

  • How families with children were spending time with their cats and dogs, including new pets.
  • How attachment with pets related to parent and child mental health.
  • The benefits and challenges of having children and a cat or dog during the pandemic.


Between July and October 2020, we used social media to recruit parents to a 15-minute online survey. Parents were required to be living with a child (under 18 years) and a cat or dog. A total of 1,299 parents across Australia responded to the survey, representing all states and territories.

The survey included questions about how families have been impacted by the pandemic (e.g. testing, diagnosis, income stress), as well as questions about parent and child wellbeing, and human-pet attachment. We also included two open-ended questions for parents to describe, in their own words, their experience of living with children and pets during the pandemic.

See Summary of Findings [PDF 566KB]. Scientific papers are currently in preparation.

Research team

La Trobe University (Transition to Contemporary Parenthood Program, Judith Lumley Centre)

  • Dr Shannon Bennetts (Principal Investigator)
  • Prof Jan Nicholson
  • Dr Sharinne Crawford
  • A/Prof Catherine Chamberlain
  • Ms Fiona Burgemeister

La Trobe University (School of Psychology and Public Health)

  • Dr Tiffani Howell

Metro North Mental Health, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital

  • Dr Kylie Burke


Dr Shannon Bennetts