When the lockdown periods were finally over, Oliva and her student Rachel Rou Qian Lau asked pet owners again how they and their animals were coping. 101 dog owners and 107 cat owners filled in the online questionnaire. Their results show that many people had become used to staying at home, and that they were still worried about going out during the pandemic. So, the situation for many pets hadn’t actually changed.
But some of the cat owners who began to leave the house again mentioned that their cats weren’t too happy with the new situation. “We found again that there was this change in the cats, that they would be unhappy their owners were not home as often,” Jessica says.
“I think that really just means that cats are creatures of habit, more so maybe than dogs. They get upset by a change in their routine rather than the actual presence or absence of the owner.”
Of course, not only single people have pets. “It would be interesting and important to look at the pet relationships in multi-person households as well,” Jessica says. “But I just couldn't resist looking at this experience in people living alone, while their other interactions during this time were pretty much non-existent.”
Teaching and research after the pandemic
Now that the lockdowns are over, and people and their pets have adjusted spending more time outside, Jessica is also happy to leave this research chapter behind her. She is back in class and teaches “Exploring Psychology” (“From Brain to Practice” and “From Perception to Reality”) at JCU.
“I absolutely love working face-to-face with students. It's just something different about that than working online,” Jessica says. “The university experience is more than getting the content across. You simply can't replace the face-to-experience.”
Jessica is still interested in how humans and dogs interact, and she has now turned to what people believe they think about drug detector dogs, in cooperation with Mia L. Cobb from the Working Dog Alliance in Australia. After all, people and their pets have a long history of bonding with each other, and there is still so much to be discovered.