Having a pet during a crisis can be a great comfort. It makes the thought of adopting a new best friend especially appealing during times of anxiety and uncertainty. In fact, pet shelters are reporting a record number of pet adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, presumably because people are missing physical contact with other living beings. However, there are seven important things to consider before you introduce a furry new member to your family during these uncertain times.
- First of all, and perhaps most crucially, there is no evidence that your pet can transmit the disease to other animals or to people. So those who are not ill can feed, play with, and walk their pets as they normally would, making sure that the animal’s bowls, toys and bedding materials are regularly cleaned and that social distancing with other people (and their pets) is maintained.
- Veterinary experts recommend, out of an abundance of caution, that people who are ill with the virus should limit contact with animals until more information is known. Patients should be sure that others in the household can care for the animal until they have recovered.
- It might be better for your family to foster a pet. Since you are likely stuck at home, this can be a good time to take in a pet from a shelter to care for temporarily. With many brick and mortar shelters closed to the public, fostering ensures the animal will have ample human interaction and care during the crisis. If you can’t keep the animal when life returns to normal, the socialization and kindness the critter received during this crisis time will make the pet even more appealing for a future owner who does have the time and energy to make a permanent commitment.
- Consider your time constraints, both now and in the future. If you've been thinking about adopting an animal and your life is limited to the house, this could be a good time to bond with your new friend. A dog needs to be housebroken, and that takes time you might have now but not have at a later date. Just remember: When this crisis passes, the pet will still be part of your household. What will your time availability be then?
- Look beyond cats and dogs. Shelters often have smaller “pocket pets’’ such as guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits, among other less traditional options. These animals are adorable, bond with people (in varying degrees depending on the pet), and can be easier to care for than a high-energy dog or a curious kitty.
- Make a donation, if you can. Organizations are still working to rescue and adopt out animals in need and with so many people struggling financially, a donation of money or supplies will be especially welcome these days. If money is tight, you can make inexpensive pet toys to donate.
- Give your animal extra attention these days. They have earned it: Studies have shown that patting an animal for as little as 10 minutes can help reduce your stress level. And don’t underestimate the impact your emotions can have on your furry friends. Dogs can pick up on their owner’s stress, according to a separate study. So stay calm and cherish your pal. After all, as the saying goes, all pets are therapy pets...some just work undercover.
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