Although we’re doing our part by “sheltering in place,” it doesn’t necessarily feel very good. In fact, remaining homebound could have negative consequences on our overall well-being. But, believe it or not, a pet could be the cure to managing your health right now — animals have been scientifically proven to lower cortisol and blood pressure.
Well before a coronavirus became a global pandemic, psychologists have been concerned with the damaging effects of loneliness. Back in 2018, Cigna performed a national survey that revealed that nearly half of 20,000 adult American participants said they either sometimes or always feel alone. 40% of the participants in the same study said they feel isolated and don’t believe they have meaningful relationships. Research shows that in addition to our mental state, loneliness and isolation can also impact our physical health, indicating that prolonged solitude can trigger diseases and premature death.
Coronavirus Is Inducing Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation
What we are experiencing today, due to COVID-19, is considered reactive loneliness. Most of us are living in cities that are under forced “shelter in place” restrictions and are only able to leave the house for groceries, medicine, or physical outdoor exercise. Quarantining ourselves limits our ability to have any control over how isolated or lonely we may be feeling. Especially for the quarter of Americans who live alone.
If your job isn’t considered “essential,” then you’re most likely trying to navigate working from home or are jobless. Regular activities like meeting friends for dinner, going on a date, or gathering with your book club have been forcibly removed from your calendar with very little notice.
Quarantining ourselves limits our ability to have any control over how isolated or lonely we may be feeling.
Roommates are trying to keep the peace at home as everyone handles stress differently. Parents are getting extra time with their kids, however, having to manage their boredom and change in routine can be exhausting even if it's totally understandable. Nothing about this pandemic is familiar to us, so we are having to readjust and find different ways to stay calm and healthy.
Currently, it may be difficult to resolve feelings of loneliness or isolation. However, there is one potential remedy. If you live alone, are feeling lonely right now, or if your home has become a breeding place for anxiety, now is the perfect time to adopt or foster a pet.
Humane Societies and Rescue Shelters Need Our Help
“If you have the time, the desire and the physical and financial ability to foster an animal from a local shelter or rescue for at least the next several weeks, it will be a much needed and welcome way to help,”said Dr. Ganzert, CEO of American Humane Rescue.
Every year in the U.S., 6-8 million animals are taken to shelters and fewer than half ever get adopted. This is a heartbreaking reality under normal conditions. Presently, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, shelters across the country are struggling even more than usual with less help and potential overcrowding.
American Humane Rescue and other animal organizations are also trying to ease the public’s concerns that pets can spread the virus. The CDC confirmed that there is no evidence of this. On AH’s website, Dr. Ganzert pleaded for people to consider fostering or adopting an animal, assuring “only their unconditional love is contagious.”
Every year in the U.S., 6-8 million animals are taken to shelters and fewer than half ever get adopted.
Social distancing requirements have rescue workers attempting to place pets in homes remotely, resulting in longer processing times. They ask people to be patient, as their help is much needed even if it’s taking a little longer to accommodate everyone. Many shelters have only been open for foster pickups, adoption interests, or emergency pet-surrenders. Now with only “essential” businesses being open, shelters and humane societies aren’t completely sure what this will mean for them.
While there are many aspects of this coronavirus that we don’t have solutions for, we’re able to provide a solution here. Being quarantined at home, millions of us alone, offers a perfect arrangement for adoption or fostering. Truth be told, this is really a win-win.
Scientific Studies Prove Having Animals Is Good for Us
Animals make wonderful companions. There are numerous scientific studies that prove the benefits pets provide for our physical and mental health. They provide emotional support, they reduce fear, they curb anxiety, they promote exercise, they are used specifically to aid in rehabilitation programs, and they can even sense when you need physical contact. Science confirms there is a reason why petting a dog makes you feel better or watching fish in a fish tank is soothing to your psyche.
Pets are also beneficial for those most at risk for suffering the worst symptoms of the virus, the elderly. Studies have shown that having a pet lowers their blood pressure and cholesterol, a pet keeps them out of the doctor’s office, and they particularly help Alzheimer's patients and those with cardiovascular diseases.
Similarly, animals can be extremely valuable to kids because they keep them active and help them feel secure. A pet may be the companion you never knew you or a loved one needed. Keep in mind that we have no idea how long this quarantine will last, and experts anticipate PTSD from social isolation will last much longer than the pandemic itself.
Pets provide emotional support, reduce fear and anxiety, promote exercise, and can even sense when you need physical contact.
The media’s advice to dealing with the “shelter in place” precautions has been for us to stay positive. And while that’s true, if you’re living alone, feeling lonely, or just overwhelmed with entertaining your kids, you might be grasping at straws to find the silver lining. Rescue an animal! Helping the helpless demonstrates compassion, a virtue we so desperately need to be practicing right now.
Maybe you’re not a cat or dog person; although they make up most of the available pets at shelters, adoptable animals include everything from guinea pigs, ferrets, and rabbits, to reptiles, birds, and livestock. If you can’t provide even temporary housing, consider helping with supplies or donating money. Call your local shelter and see what they need.
Within your usual schedule, a pet may have been too hard to juggle. Fortunately, COVID-19 removes many of the common restrictions. We have the time, a home we are confined to, and love we need to share to keep our spirits up. Remember, fostering is just as important as adoption. Of course, welcoming a pet into your home is not for everyone. It requires patience and consideration for their needs. If you’re interested but have some lingering questions check out the Humane Society’s Website; you may be surprised to find that many of the animals in shelters are pure-bred, they make sure the pet’s behavior and personality will match yours, and they provide resources to help you every step of the way.