All the Single Ladies Are Fostering Pets for Company During Coronavirus Isolation
As COVID-19 continues to force us inside into our respective homes (or in the case of many New Yorkers like myself, our tiny apartments), a common refrain is: “I am so bored and lonely.” Puzzles, while fun, can’t curl up next to you on the couch. And while connecting with our friends over FaceTime for a virtual happy hour is great, if you’re single, or separated from your SO because of the virus, it doesn’t really do a whole lot to salve the loneliness that being isolated naturally brings.
We need physical touch! We need snuggles! We can’t just watch Love Is Blind for the fifth time in a row — alone!
That’s why a lot of single or self-isolated people are turning to pet adoption. “I wanted to foster an animal because I know the shelters and rescue organizations are very busy right now,” says Sara Benincasa, who is currently fostering Polly, a 6-year-old kitty. And she’s right — shelters like Kern County Animal Services in Bakersfield, California, which actually set up drive-through for foster pickups, and Dallas Animal Services, which is offering tele-adoptions, have been all over Twitter, begging for help placing animals.
“Because this is an ever-evolving and unprecedented situation, each shelter is facing unique challenges specific to their community,” Matt Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA, says. “Many shelters are facing reduced staff and volunteering support, which is putting animals in desperate need of temporary or permanent sheltering.”
People are home alone and feeling isolated — as of Thursday March 26, there’s some kind of stay-at-home mandate in 19 states, 45 counties, and 18 cities across the U.S., according to the New York Times. A lot of the people in those places are sheltering in place all alone. And according to the American Psychological Association, isolation, even just perceived isolation, can be seriously damaging to your mental health. One analysis found that a lack of social connection is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
While humans are grappling with the effects of social isolation, dogs and cats are in need of safe places to go where they’ll get the attention and training they need. “I thought that it presented a good opportunity to be able to have the time at home to look after him while he's tiny and settling in, as often people would have to juggle that with traveling to the office,” says Sarah Fardon about her new pup, Hardy.
It’s like the plot of a rom-com — two people (or beings) with matching needs finding each other at the exact right time. Except instead of finding your soul mate, you might uncover your temporary fur baby.
Erin Saul, who is currently fostering two cats named Neptune and Pluto, agrees. “During this time of uncertainty, it’s wonderful to be able to help get animals into foster homes, and then into forever homes.” She says she regularly fosters cats, but the pair she had recently were both adopted recently, leaving her cat-less. “When the staff at my local shelter posted that they needed to get some more cats into foster, I stepped up.”
“I had both selfish and selfless reasons for taking in a foster during the pandemic,” says Delainey Loedding, who is fostering a dog named Frederick. “I wanted to open my home in case my local shelter had to close its doors. But I also felt having a dog during these crazy times would be beneficial for my own mental health, as well as force me to take time to go outside and get a walk in every day.”
Benincasa also figured that having an animal around would be beneficial to her mental health at the moment — and they’re both right. A recent study found that nearly 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely.
“By adopting or fostering an animal in urgent need — no matter the species, breed, or size — you may be saving that animal’s life, as well as helping free up valuable shelter space and resources for other animals in need,” says Bershadker. And the trend seems to be working. In fact, New York is reportedly running out of dogs and cats to foster. That’s probably the only good shortage to come out of all of this.
Also, and I cannot stress this enough, it’s just an amazing boon to be able to look at cute photos of animals online. Having one in your home can only improve that situation, right? “Did you know that rather than waking up and immediately staring into the blinding rectangle of misery, you could instead just snuggle a cat?” says Lucy Knisley, about her cat, Rhino. “Recommend it.”
The coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.