If there was ever a better time to adopt or foster an animal, it would be now.
Sources like the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have observed that adoption and fostering rates across the U.S. have grown substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lily Thomas, a Salt Lake Community College pre-medical health science major, owns plenty of pets already with two calico cats and a rabbit, but she too has welcomed a new Cavoodle puppy.
“Some of the benefits of having a pet at the house is that you are never alone, and they are always excited to see you. I believe owning a pet right now is a huge advantage. They give me something to look forward to every day,” Thomas explained.
Students like Thomas rely on having pets in the house since they are not able to visit friends in the traditional sense. But as people stay home and avoid large groups as advised, some feel lonely and disconnected from the life they once had.
Loneliness can be a driving force of several physical and mental health issues, and for many stuck at home, pets can become the primary source of companionship.
Pet owners receive several mental health benefits from their furry companions. SLCC fashion major Emmalee Hansen, a proud owner of two cats and one dog, explains how her pets help her.
“There is some serious emotional support that comes from having a pet that loves you and wants to be with you when no one else understands where you’re at,” Hansen said.
Prolonged feelings of loneliness contribute to a variety of mental health issues, including increased stress levels, antisocial behavior, alcoholism and drug abuse, altered brain function, depression and suicide. But as social distancing keeps more people at home, it can be comforting to know that pets are there for those who need them the most.
Jodi Lycett, a clinical mental health counselor at SLCC, owns a pug and a cat, and mentioned in a virtual interview that her pets have really enjoyed her company now that she’s home more often.
Lycett went on to say the main positive aspects of owning a pet are they help calm heart rate, provide entertainment, and they give owners “a connection when we all feel disconnected.”
There are responsibilities that come with owning a pet, whether in times of pandemic or not. The relationship between pet and human is mutually beneficial and provides an escape back to “the norm,” pre-pandemic.
Students like Nikki Burgon, a medical assisting major, miss doing things that seemed like second nature before coronavirus became widespread and people were advised to stay apart.
“I miss hanging with friends, eating out, going to the mall [or] movie theater,” Burgon said, adding that another thing she missed doing was taking her dog to the dog park.
With COVID-19 restricting a lot of enjoyment, it is comforting to know that furry friends will still be in abundance. Dogs and cats are regarded as emotional anchors to some, and that precedent will continue for a long time.
“Pets give unconditional love, which is a powerful thing,” Lycett said.