An upside of these strange pandemic times is that housebound humans are not only talking more to pets but including them in jokes, tricks, laughter and songs, then posting the results on social media sites that warm lonely hearts worldwide. (When we sing, Alfie the short-arsed terrier jumps up, grabs his squeaky crocodile and plays along.) Strict animal disciplinarians tend to ridicule this stuff, perhaps because the poor buggers are too busy taking themselves seriously to realise what they, and their pets, are missing.
Dr Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago, suggests talking to animals (and anthropomorphism in general) is actually a sign of intelligence. "Recognising the mind of another human being involves the same psychological processes as recognising a mind in other animals, a god or even a gadget," Epley writes. "It is a reflection of our brain's greatest ability, rather than a sign of our stupidity."