Before I adopted my cat, Telford, a former feral with two different colored eyes, I’d gotten into a bad habit of rolling out of bed mere minutes before starting work 10 steps away. Now—although one big paw on the delete key did force me to retype this sentence several times—the simple act of feeding him breakfast has imbued my days with a sense of purpose.
I’m not alone. “Pandemic pets” are a whole thing. A survey by Seattle-based canine-care app Rover shows almost half of its respondents got their dogs between March 2020 and January 2021 (some even went so far as to give their unsuspecting new family members pandemic-themed names, like Covi, Corona, and Dr. Fauci, according to a peek at Rover’s user database). The vast majority say they brought home a four-legged friend for emotional support, or because they needed something positive in their lives. More time at home, more time to dedicate to a fuzzy little cure for pandemic-induced depression. Right?
Actually, interest in animal rescue—nearly two-thirds of pandemic pet parents adopted—“always, always, always” increases amid disasters, per Melody Stone, adoption program manager at Seattle Humane Society. It’s our instinct to help in times of trouble, she says: After hurricanes and mudslides, “what you usually see is your community coming together.” With fears of contagion spreading, we couldn’t physically be there for humans. It’s no wonder we reached out for pets.
While adoptions received the bulk of the attention, Stone says the pandemic prompted an even greater bump in foster volunteers. At one point, she estimates, 90 percent of Seattle Humane Society animals were staying in homes, rather than at the shelter.
Dare we call it a silver lining? Stone calls it unmistakable: “People have really taken advantage of the predicament they were in and opened their hearts and homes to pets.”