Pros and cons for getting a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic
Published on: April 21, 2020
Animal shelters across the country are reporting an increase in the number of pets being adopted, as people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as Becker College’s Jessica Zappone notes, there are many factors that need to be considered before deciding to adopt.
“There are a lot of pros for adopting or fostering a pet during this time,” said Zappone, kennel manager at Becker’s Lenfest Animal Health Center. “While we are home because of self-isolation, animals can offer a tremendous amount of affection and companionship. That’s especially true for those who live alone or are separated from their families due to COVID-19. The joy of bringing a new four-legged family member into the house can lift spirits during a very sad and challenging time in our lives.”
Many people are suffering traumatic losses, stress, and anxiety, or simply miss going out to events. Having a pet can give them something positive to focus on and keep them busy.
But Zappone said there are many things prospective adopters should take into consideration, before deciding to adopt.
“Adopting a pet is not something that should be taken lightly or done to satisfy one’s own needs,” she said. “The most important question people should ask is, ‘What will life look like for my pet after I return to my normal work schedule.”
Zappone said that was something she considered before deciding recently to adopt Kover, a 14-week-old Catahoula/Lab mix.
“We adopted Kover after my fiancé’s sister rescued him in Alabama and saved him from a bad situation,” Zappone said. “He’s definitely made a positive impact on our household.”
As Zappone noted, there are several benefits for pets that are adopted at this time, particularly if that new pet is a puppy. Being at home all day can gives the owner and dog time to bond and connect. House breaking is easier because you’re able to take the dog out more frequently throughout the day. Being home also offers more time to train appropriate behaviors and engage your dog’s mind.
But along with all of the positives, Zappone said it is equally important to look at factors that might make having a pet difficult in the long run. That’s something animal shelters are concerned about, too. Several have expressed fears of a wide-scale return of pets when people stop social isolating and stop working remotely.
“Adopting, even before this pandemic, has always meant making a commitment for the life of the pet,” Zappone said. “You need to make sure that when your lifestyle returns to ’normalcy’ that your pet’s needs are still being met.”
As she explained, that is particularly true for dogs, who may develop separation anxiety or fear of being alone when owners return to work or school. She added that adjusting their schedule may be a challenge for them.
For anyone who does decide to adopt a pet, Zappone has some advice.
- Socialization is very important. Try to expose your pet to a wide variety of people and situations so that they learn those situations are not scary. Expose them to what you can without exposing yourself. Socialization to things such as vacuum cleaners, the bath, or even the car can be done from your home.
- Handle your puppy as they would at a vet appointment (touching their feet/toes for nail trims, getting them used to handling for vaccines/blood draws, touching their ears).
- Practice social distancing but still expose your pet to the “outside world” – going for walks, hikes, and exercising in the yard. Exercise is important not only for the health of animals but also to help with boredom from being house-bound. Boredom in dogs (especially puppies) can lead to destructive behaviors such as chewing.
- Give them plenty of pet safe toys – variety is always a good thing (soft toys, hard toys, toys that make noise). Enrichment or treat toys can be helpful.
- Train them. Positively reinforcing their good behaviors not only teaches them the appropriate way to carry themselves but engages their minds and gives them something to do.
- Spend some time without your pet, whether it is them napping in a separate room or you leaving the house. This will help them when you return to work. Leaving calming music on for them or the TV can help with this.
- When you return to work, make sure your pet isn’t left in the house/crate longer than they can hold their eliminations. This may mean finding someone, such as a family member or neighbor, to let them out to do their business.
- When you return from a long workday, your pet is most likely going to be full of energy. Be prepared to give them the attention and exercise they need even after you’ve worked all day. In a way they are similar to humans; they need interaction, connection and something to do while stuck in the house.
To find out more about the Lenfest Animal Health Center go to https://www.becker.edu/academic/clinics-centers-institutes/becker-veterinary-clinic/ To learn more about the many programs offered through Becker’s School of Animal Studies and Natural Sciences, go to https://www.becker.edu/academic/academic-programs/animal-studies-natural-sciences/