The coronavirus has changed life as we know it in the United States and around the globe. This pandemic is being called the biggest crisis we have faced since World War II, and unfortunately, it’s hard to say when things could begin to return to normal.
It’s bleak. Hospitals are running low on supplies, even though infection rates likely won’t peak for weeks. Dozens of states have issue stay-at-home orders to flatten the curve, and apparently face masks are set to be the next big fashion trend.
Human Kindness is on the Rise During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Amid all this uncertainty though, people are doing what they can to help. Incredible moments of kindness and connection have been reported. Neighbors in Italy are seen singing together on their porches. Younger, healthier people are offering to run errands for seniors. Companies are stepping up to produce life-saving equipment. Help and donations are pouring in from private citizens and businesses to support healthcare workers.
Maybe one of the most surprising highlights we’ve seen throughout this pandemic though, has been the benefits our furry friends have reaped. Thanks to shelter-in-place orders and social distancing measures that have been put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19, our pets are getting more time with us. While you might be ready to go bowling again, you dog can’t wait to go on another walk with you.
It doesn’t end there. Here’s more about what our new pandemic lifestyle means for us and our pets, and how you can jump on this bandwagon.
Pets are Spending More Time with Their Families Thanks to Social Distancing
While you might be sick on Netflix at this point (try HBO; it has released a bunch of free titles to help combat boredom) your pets are likely very happy to constantly see you around. They are also likely helping you keep your sanity through this.
Both pets and owners benefit from more time together. The human-animal bond is a dynamic relationship that positively influences the well-being of both parties. And it’s a lot easier to get some quality time in with your fur babies when you aren’t driving back and forth to work, going out to dinner, or heading to the beach for the day.
That’s translating into more playtime, more random conversations (baby-talk is likely involved and improves your bond with them) and more cuddles on the couch (or across your laptop).
Certain pets, like dogs (or pet pigs), are also giving people an opportunity to get out of the house or apartment for routine walks, even when under quarantine. Even if the animal doesn’t leave the house, pets are keeping owners active and providing some consistency, forcing us to get up in the morning to care for them no matter what mood we’re in, and to keep their routine as normal as possible.
Studies show that pets have a way of alleviating anxiety, stress and depression, even in those with long-standing mental health conditions. When surveyed, 74% of pet owners say their mental health improved once they got a pet, and 75% of them said they had a family member who mentally benefited from pet ownership.
Positive human-animal interactions have a physical impact on both humans and animals, researchers have found. Both have measurable increases in oxytocin levels in their brains. Studies show that pet owners’ health and well-being improved in numerous areas, including:
- Having better self-esteem
- Feeling less lonely
- Being more conscientious and less preoccupied
- Feeling less fearful
Experts caution however, to keep an eye on your pet’s own mental health through the coronavirus crisis. Vets warn that our pets can sense our anxiety and stress, and they are likely adjusting to a “new normal” too. Make sure to use physical activity and play to relieve tension and have a safe space for them to hide when they need a break. They also warn not to overfeed your pets out of boredom as that can lead to other health problems for them down the road.
Still, most agree the positive effects experienced by having a pet are palpable. That’s why so many people are now deciding to make room in their home for a new fuzzy face.
More Animals Are Being Pulled from Shelters into Emergency Foster Care
Shelters across the country have put out the call for people to foster pets during the coronavirus emergency, and people are responding in droves. Because so many people find themselves isolated thanks to statewide stay-at-home orders, shelters have placed a record number of dogs, cats, and other pets in need into temporary foster homes.
Shelters are preparing for the chance of an increase in requests for foster care for pets whose owners are seriously ill or hospitalized. They also want to make sure they have the space in the shelters for animals from homes that were financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, making sure families have a safe place to bring them.
Animals placed in foster care get to enjoy a home setting, which is a much easier transition for animals coming from another home. As for animals looking for a new home, their move to a foster home increases the likelihood that they’ll be adopted.
Foster families are usually the first ones who get to see their true personalities. A foster home may be the first place a pet learns basic house manners; making them even more appealing to potential adopter. Pets also become more social in foster home settings with both people and other animals; further improving the chances they’ll end up in a forever home.
Foster homes provide animals a place to heal. Some animals may need to be nursed back to health with extra feedings or medications. Some orphaned animals need more individual attention than the shelter staff can provide. Some animals might just be unable to adapt to shelter-life and need someone else to go before finding their forever home.
Fostering is a great step for people who want to open their homes to a furry friend but aren’t sure they are ready for the long-term commitment of being a pet owner. It’s temporary, and you can choose how you foster. Most rescues can accommodate your requests. If you’re only looking to house a cat or two, or a small dog, or an older animal, they will likely be able to work with you.
You probably already have the space you need to bring in a new, temporary pet. A spare bedroom or office, even a screened-in porch is great for foster animals. A bathroom is enough room for a young puppy or kitten. While it might not feel like enough sometimes, remember that these pets are coming from often crowded shelters, so even a small space in your quiet home is a big improvement over their crate in that noisy building.
While you might not get paid to foster a pet, expenses associated with helping the animal could be considered donations to the shelter and tax-deductible. Contact the specific rescue organization you’d like to work with to see what they provide for the animal and what you’d need to cover. Make sure to keep things like receipts, vet bills, and any documents from the charity that outline approved services, so when it’s tax time, you have what you need to deduct the costs.
Some companies and nonprofits are looking to help bring more animals out of shelters and into foster care. For instance, one nonprofit is offering to cover the cost of any food, supplies, spay or neutering fees and medications for anyone who fosters a dog over the age of six for as long as the family fosters the pooch.
The emotional cost comes from having to say goodbye to the animal after taking care of it for weeks, or even months. Foster parents say the joy comes from knowing you saved a life, preparing it for its forever home while freeing up space in the shelter for another animal in need. Sometimes, that animal your fostering becomes one of the family, making it impossible to let them go.
More Pets Are Being Outright Adopted During the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
It seems that people who were once on the fence about adding a furry family member are taking the leap now that they are home and able to spend some quality time together. Shelters across the country have reported a major uptick in adoption rates, and many shelters are slashing adoption rates to clear out their kennels.
Companies are stepping in to help families adopt too. For instance, the founder of Prai Beauty has offered to cover all adoption fees for a month to help shelters clear out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is great news for both the owners – who will now reap all the previously mentioned health benefits, the pets – who now have a forever home, and the shelters – that can now either pull in more homeless animals or cut down to skeleton crews for safety purposes.
Shelters are doing what they can to help people adopt during COVID-19 pandemic, including opening curbside adoption programs. After looking through the shelter’s website to see available pets and learn more about their personalities and backgrounds, interested families submit requests online or over the phone. Shelter staff contacts the family to finalize a virtual adoption process. Once the adoption is approved, the staff works with the family to either have the pet picked up curbside or delivered right to the family’s home.
How Can You Help Animals During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Shelters are still looking for donations, new foster families, and new forever homes for their animals. Click on the links below to learn more about the fostering and adoption process, how you can help, or how you can get assistance yourself.
If you’re looking at making some space in your life for your own furry friend, here are some more information and tips to help you prepare.
- Fostering vs. Adoption
- Bringing a New Pet Home
- Selecting the Right Pet for the Family
- Introducing New Pet to Family
- Fostering Dogs and Cats
- How to Help Shelter Animals
If you’re looking for some helpful tips on how to train your new friend, or how to keep them entertained while you’re home all day, here are some helpful links.
If you’re having trouble affording your pet due to the coronavirus outbreak, here are some helpful resources put together by the Humane Society of the United States.
Forward Thinking Systems is mainly comprised of obsessive pet parents who leap at any chance to show you pictures of our fuzzy babies. Check out our About Us section to learn more about the team and our furry counterparts.