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A New Friend in the Pandemic

Chance and Lily, Spy Cats [Flickr]

The mental health benefits of having a dog or cat include help with depression, stress, anxiety - not to mention the companionship they provide to ease our loneliness.  Sounds like just the right prescription for a time such as this!


There is scientific evidence that having a pet can be good for you, both physically and mentally. Years ago, researchers observed that just petting a dog or cat can often reduce a person’s blood pressure. They noticed that pet owners tend to be more engaged with the world around them. And they found that just 45 minutes of playful interaction between a person and a pet resulted in reduced level of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the saliva of both the humans and the animals.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot more folks are staying home now. Animal shelters have seen an increase – a significant increase in some cases – in the fostering and adoption of homeless pets, often as a result of public pleas from shelters who anticipate an influx of animals whose owners might become ill and unable to care for them. So the shelters have tried to free up cage space to be ready for that.

While adoptions are a permanent commitment, there are folks who are willing to temporarily house a pet, or "foster" it. Occasionally, a foster situation becomes an adoption when the animal and human are so happy together that they want the relationship to continue.

You might want to help out your local shelter by taking in a homeless dog or cat, but you may have reservations about a pet being a carrier of coronavirus. While it’s true that both dogs and cats may have a coronavirus, it is not COVID-19. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that all the experts and many health organizations for both humans and animals around the world agree that there is no evidence to indicate a pet can become sick from COVID-19, or spread it to other animals or people.

So remember - if you are isolating yourself to stay safe during the pandemic, you don’t have to do it alone. Enjoy your time with your family, including the four-footed members. And consider the possibility that you can brighten your world by taking in a homeless dog or cat, and help each other get through it together – when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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