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February 15, 2021

Some pets putting on pounds during pandemic, some getting more exercise

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Surveys of pet owners have found that some cats and dogs have gained weight during the COVID-19 pandemic, although some pets also have gotten more playtime or walks.

Illustration: Fat dogs

On April 9, 2020, VitusVet shared results from a survey of more than 1,000 pet owners about experiences with pets during stay-at-home orders early in the pandemic. Exercise was a popular theme, with 53% of respondents noting more playtime at home, and 39% saying they took more frequent dog walks.

In May and October 2020, Banfield Pet Hospital released results of surveys of 1,000 dog and cat owners examining the impact of people quarantining at home with their pets. In May, 42% of pet owners were exercising their pets more than they had before the pandemic. In October, 75% of people turned to their pets three or more times per day to feel better. Among common activities, 71% of people had playtime with pets, and 38% of people exercised with pets.

In addition to more attention, pets also might be getting extra treats or fuller food bowls, according to Banfield. Among survey respondents, 42% admitted their pet had gained weight as of October, compared with 33% as of May.

At the end of 2020, Hill’s Pet Nutrition released results from a survey regarding pets’ weight conducted in late November in partnership with Kelton Global, with responses from 1,021 dog and cat owners and 257 veterinarians.

Since the start of the pandemic, a third of owners of an overweight pet said their pet had become overweight during the pandemic. More than half of pet owners said they’ve been giving treats to their pets for no reason.

Among owners of overweight pets, 31% with overweight dogs and 24% with overweight cats felt it’s harder to help their pet lose weight now, compared with before COVID-19, and 49% of veterinarians agreed that it’s harder for pet parents to keep their pets at a healthy weight during the pandemic than before.