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Staying home for long periods of time can make you feel isolated, especially if you live by yourself. If the idea of adopting a pet crosses your mind, you're not alone. Bringing a new pup or kitty into your life could provide comfort while enduring the COVID-19 pandemic alone — away from extended family, friends and colleagues.
As the world practices self-isolation and quarantine, there's been an increase in pet adoption and fostering. As we spend more time home at home, it's not uncommon to feel like we're missing out on our usual routines with our circle of friends and extended family members. Having a pet by our side can ease that distress by offering more moments of simple at-home joy in our lives.
The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Dog or Cat
It's no secret: Animal friends make us happy. Pets provide both emotional and social support for people of all ages, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Research published by the APA discovered that pet companionship improves our overall well-being, mentally and physically. Some key perks of being a pet parent include:
- Increase in self-esteem
- Improved physical fitness
- Decreased loneliness
- Being more contentious
- Being less fearful
- Experiencing rejection better
- Increase in social support
The human-animal bond that provides constant companionship, love and affection is known as the "pet effect," per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). This magical connection reduces our feelings of anxiety, loneliness, social isolation, depression and fear by increasing oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, in our brains.
Pets Are Good For Us Physically, Too
In addition to putting smiles on our faces, pets encourage us to be more physically active. Dogs, for example, get used to your routine, which means getting off the couch for regular feedings, potty breaks and playtime sessions. And most cats can't pass up a game of chasing a ball or catnip-filled toy with you.
Dogs also need daily exercise outside the home, which encourages us to all move a bit more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days per week.
Whether you play fetch in your fenced garden or go for a walk in the neighbourhood, both you and your dog will get some much-needed steps, fresh air and time outside of your home. As you're out and about, observe social distancing by keeping 6 feet apart from others who are also using parks and walking paths.
Is It a Good Time to Adopt a Pet?
Now is a wonderful time to consider opening your home to a pet. Fostering or adopting a pet reduces the strain on local shelters and makes more space for incoming cats and dogs.
If you've never thought of adopting before, consider starting with a pet foster program. Contact your local animal shelter and rescue groups to learn more about their fostering options. By becoming a foster parent, you will temporarily host the pet in your home to keep them out of shelters and off the streets. You'll enjoy companionship and the pet gets the benefit a loving home while the hosting organisation searches for the pet's forever family. Most organisations foot the bill for food, toys and veterinary care, making fostering the perfect way to ease into becoming a full-time pet owner.
If you've been thinking of adopting a pet and were just waiting for the right time, this might be it. Pet owners can have pups that live 10 to 15 years and cats that celebrate a 20th birthday; making the decision to adopt a pet is a long-term commitment. Ask yourself these questions as you consider:
- Do I have time to share with a new pet right now?
- What size and type of pet will get along with my kids and existing pets?
- Do I have space in my home for a new pet?
- Does my landlord/homeowner's association allow pets?
- Can I financially support the needs of a new pet?
- Would spending time with a new pet make me happy?
With all of the time you're spending at home right now, having time to train a pet also can weigh in your decisions. Pets, even those that are already house broken or litter trained, take a few days or weeks to get used to their new surroundings, and being able to spend time with them showing them the ropes can go a long way into making them feel comfortable in their new environment.
Pets Also Benefit from Being With You
Adopting a pet from a shelter is not only a great way to boost your health, but it also gives a homeless animal another a chance at living a happy life. When you bring one of these pets into your family, you're also opening up a spot in a rescue program or shelter for another needy pet
Adopted and fostered pets get much-needed social interaction, love, and care by being in a stable home setting with the same people each day, making them feel secure and happy. As you consider a new furry companion, every single homeless pet has their little paws crossed in the hopes you'll fall in love with them and take them home.
Consider Life After Social Isolation
While it's great to think about all of the positives of having a pet at home to snuggle with, it's also important to think about life after social isolation ends. Consider what happens after you start going back to work or kids start going back to school. Does your life still allow you to give your new dog or cat the attention they need to be happy and healthy? While fostering can be a great way to test what life is like with a pet in the house, adoption is a long-term commitment that you need to consider all of the possibilities after things go back to "normal."
Creating a relationship with a new cat or dog is good for all parties involved — especially during self-isolation. Improved mental and physical health for both you and the adopted pet can be expected, as long as you're ready to emotionally and financially welcome a new furry family member into your home.
Angela Tague is a pet mom and writer living in the Midwest. When she's not making a mess in the kitchen, exploring nature trails with her dog, or attending a yoga workshop, she's writing full-time for multiple lifestyle and technology brands. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn @AngelaTague.