Pandemic pets - how animals found new homes under lockdown

Bowie the cat

Bowie the cat. - Credit: Hillary Childs

With multiple lockdowns forcing us to spend more time at home, people have sought comfort in our furry, feathered and scaly friends for companionship and fun.

We spoke to some new pet-owners to find out how they ended up expanding their households during the pandemic.

Friederike Rummenhohl of Watling View rescued kittens Loki and Milo before Christmas.

She said "We weren't planning on getting any more cats after our cats died as we weren't emotionally ready.

"We fostered for a while and it was a lovely experience. A friend of mine then said her cat was having kittens. 

"My partner works out and I work from home and they have been great company and brightened up Zoom meetings by making an on-screen appearance. When the days are dark and you don't feel like going out, they make everything feel brighter."

She added: "I think it's important that just because people are at home more, they do plan and make sure they are committed to the full responsibility of homing a pet long-term."

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Sinead Howland adopted 13-week-old gerbils Pancake and Syrup after noticing her 10-year-old daughter Lyra was becoming more withdrawn.

Rescued kittens Milo and Loki.

Rescued kittens Milo and Loki. - Credit: Friederike Rummenhohl

"Lyra is very sociable and was struggling not being able to see friends. She loves gaming but it isn’t good for her mental health to be on a computer all day and as both of us work full time it is really hard to manage.

"Now we have Pancake and Syrup Lyra is so much happier. She spends lots of time playing with them and hand feeding them. Lyra set up a play pen for them for exercise. 

Lyra and her gerbils Pancake and Syrup.

Lyra and her gerbils Pancake and Syrup. - Credit: Sinead Howland

Sanna Howland and Cactus the bearded dragon.

Sanna Howland and Cactus the bearded dragon. - Credit: Sinead Howland

The family also acquired Cactus the bearded dragon at the beginning of January, and he sits in daughter Sanna's vivarium at the glass or on her shoulder while she learns. 

"Caring for the animals - we have a dog, fish and African land snails too! - has been a great bonding experience for us as a family. The bearded dragon required a lot of research and needs to be fed three to four times a day. She likes eating locusts, crickets and worms, which also require caring for and feeding! 

"I see learning about and caring for the new pets as education and an important part of taking care of our mental health as a family."

Caroline Fletcher re-homed a kitten who was abandoned and hand-reared. She took in Chester in October and he is now four months old.

She said: "He loves playing with my three boys. He especially loves watching the marbles roll down the marble run! 

"He really enjoys cuddles and he has settled in so well with our family,  we couldn't imagine life without him now."

Hillary Childs, of Cavendish Road, adopted Arabian Mau Oscar, who the family has renamed Bowie in honour of the singer because of his one dodgy eye.

She said: "I saw an advert for a cat online and sent a message. Joy , a volunteer of a UK based non-profit organisation Itty Bitty Kitty Tails, said he wasn't good with kids although she had another cat in mind who'd be perfect."

Hillary explained that she had an 'interview' and after a detailed conversation about her family, they both decided that Oscar would be ideal.

She then sent some pictures and a video of her children and home so that his foster family were happy where he was going, completed some paperwork and was told the cat would be on a flight the next week. An adoption fee was charged to cover some of his vet bills. He also came with an up to date passport. 

Hillary said: "Dubai to St Albans in 12 hours! He settled in immediately and absolutely adores the girls, especially our baby Connie, who he cuddles in her sleep.

"He's loads of fun and really gentle, and generally the perfect family cat. I keep in touch with his old family back in Dubai, sending them videos and pictures in a WhatsApp and I've spoken to other people looking to adopt from Joy, to recommend her.

"She's a lovely woman doing an amazing job and it's a shame more people don't adopt from Dubai rather than looking for designer kittens."

Itty Bitty Kitty Tails

A none-profit organisation which supervises a rehoming programme called Uniting Meaw With You (Middle East Animal Welfare)  dedicated to the welfare of stray and dumped cats. Founded in 2015 it supports animal advocates in the England and the Middle East, predominantly the United Arab Emirates, where 90% of the population are ex-pats. Because of its transitional nature, only a small fraction of them actually take their pets with them when they move back to their home countries.

Many end up dumped on the streets and if not spayed will have kittens in an endless cycle. Animal welfare advocates do their best to help, fostering in their own homes and paying vet bills and relocation costs out of their own pockets. The rescued cats who are sent to the UK are all fully health checked, vaccinated, microchipped and sterilised before they are flown to the UK.

All the cats travel into the UK on The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which is a system that allows animals to travel easily between member countries without undergoing quarantine. A pet passport is a document that officially records information related to a specific animal, as part of that procedure.

Itty Bitty Kitty Tails works to improve the welfare of stray, dumped and abused cats. They support animal advocates in England, Wales and the Middle East to rescue and rehome unwanted felines. Find out more about the Uniting Meaw With You rehoming programme at