People all over the globe are staying at home and avoiding large crowds to stymie the further spread of the coronavirus, explained Kelli Bender of human interest and celebrity news site People. Social distancing helps in curbing the pandemic but you don’t have to do it alone.
“If you don’t have a pet and are thinking about getting one, now is the perfect time to ‘try it on’ by fostering from your local shelter," Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society told People. In America, shelters and pet adoption facilities need people to take care of their pets temporarily. Adopting and fostering an animal will take the burden off your local shelter, which may be suffering from low adoption rates, as well as a surge intakes and limited sources.
How Do People Choose Which Pets to Adopt? (2012)
Emily Weiss and colleagues of life science and biomedical journal portal PMC conducted their survey from January 2011 until May 2011 in five organizations across the US. A total of 1,599 answered the survey, though only 1,491 provided sufficient information on species and age of adopted animal to complete the researchers’ analysis. Weiss and colleagues found that more dogs (54%) than cats (46%) were adopted. More puppies (69.4%) were adopted than kittens (30.6%), though a significant number of adult cats (51.6%) were adopted, more than adult dogs (48.4%).
In dogs, 27.3% of people said they adopted them because of their physical appearance, followed by personality/temperament (15.8%), and behavior with people (11.4%). In cats, adopters cited behavior with people (26.9%), appearance (13.9%), and personality/temperament (12.2%). Adopters chose kittens because of their appearance (22.6%), behavior (15.3%), and personality/temperament (10.2%). In adult cats, adopters chose them based on their behavior with people (26.9%), followed by appearance (22.6%) and personality/temperament (10.2%).
Adopters said recommendations from staff/volunteers were an important reason in choosing an adult dog (23.7%) compared to puppies (15.8%). The same case applies with adult cats (22.3% versus 13.1% of those who adopted kittens), albeit at a lower percentage than adult dogs.
Puppies (29%) were more likely to be adopted for their physical appearance than adult dogs (26.8%). Adopters were more likely to adopt adult dogs (18.5%) for their personality/temperament than puppies (12.3). Child/family-friendliness was also cited as reasons for adopting either a puppy (12.3%) or an adult (8.7%). Adopters mentioned behavior with people as an important reason for adopting a puppy (11%) or a dog (11.3%).
Among those who adopted cats, the three most common answers to the question “What did this pet do when you first met him/her” were approached/greeted (19.8%), vocalized (13.4%), and rubbed/leaned on (9.35%). For those who adopted dogs, the owners said their canine approached/greeted (23%), licked (14.8%), and jumped up/climbed on them (9.4%).
Many People Choose to Bring Home a Pet for Companionship
Katy Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Animal Centers of New York City, said the shelter called for applications to its fostering program to fill out 200 available slots. She added, “One of the reasons we found that people are unable to adopt pets in New York City is because they are never home.” But times have changed these last few weeks as more people stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Hansen noted that “it is a combination of feeling lonely and having the time.”
For example, KC Pet Project, a non-profit animal shelter in Kansas City, received 250 requests to foster pets, stated spokeswoman Tori Fugate. Meanwhile, the Dallas Animal Services solicited foster parents on its website, placing over 100 pets in foster homes.
Allison Lewis, one of the managers at Street Tails Animal Rescue, shared that the shelter receives “a million phone calls” and “a ton of applications,” quoted Elizabeth Estrada of WHYY, a media organization in Philadelphia. “Either everybody wants to adopt a dog right now or foster one in their home,” she stated.
Eileen Hanavan, director of the foster and engagement program at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal, said a foster relationship helps people who are looking to adjust to the new normal, Such relationship can also help the pet cope and adjust to the circumstance.
Home Is Where Pets Make Their Owners Happier
Hansen said the environments at shelters often keep the animals on edge, arguing that placing them in a home is healthier. It also increases the likelihood of the animal to be adopted. Pets are stressed and tired when they are sheltered, preventing owners from knowing the animals’ true colors. “When you get them into a home, when they can sleep through the night, their true personality really comes out,” Hansen said.
Rebecca Applebaum, a teacher who lives alone in Manhattan, fostered a litter of kittens from the ASPCA to help her establish a routine at home. She admitted, “The routine of feeding them every day gives me structure.” Applebaum talks to her kittens and they will “do their cute thing,” which has been good for the teacher. Quarantine can be isolating, but having a pet in the house reduces feelings of loneliness, she said. For Applebaum, it’s a win-win situation.
Pets Help Improve Mental Health
Applebaum’s sentiments echoed those of the respondents surveyed by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) in 2016, a non-profit research and education organization, and the Cohen Research Group, a research and consulting industry.
74% of pet owners said their mental health improved from pet ownership, though 83% of boomers and 82% of greatest/silent generations reported more mental health improvements from pets compared to Millennials (62%) and Gen X (72%). In fact, 81% of respondents were aware that pets help increase their sense of well-being. They even believed pet ownership help reduce depression (86%) and anxiety (84%).
“It’s not only safe to keep pets in the home, but also beneficial, as they can serve as a source of comfort during a crisis,” Castle explained. She agreed that pet companionship helps reduce stress, allowing owners to feel calmer and more secure when news about the outbreak is distressing.
Should You Adopt or Foster A Pet?
Fostering involves taking in an animal with you temporarily and acknowledging that someone will adopt it permanently. When fostering an animal, you have to teach it manners and the skills they need to successfully transition into their new home.
Meanwhile, adoption requires long-term commitment and should only be considered if you’re planning to have it for a long time. Lewis Checchia, Morris Animal’s executive director, said an adopter is someone who can provide space and resources for the animal, be it love or medical care. Checchia acknowledged that every owner is different, adding “We just try to find the best human for the animal and the best animal for the human.”
Pets help ease feelings of loneliness during this period, especially if you are living one. It’s up to you if you want to foster or adopt a pet. Taking care of an animal is not easy so be sure to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge before visiting your local shelter.