Cages in some animal shelters are as empty as the toilet paper aisle has been, as people sheltering at home look to new pets for companionship. It’s a worthwhile way to stay busy and there are plenty of pets throughout the country that still need homes.
If your teen has always wanted a pet, but your busy schedule held you back, adopting or fostering a dog or cat while staying at home during COVID-19 closures might be a great way for your family to bond and share your love with a critter who will be fur-ever grateful.
Here are many reasons why your family should consider adopting or fostering a pet during this current pandemic—and one big reason you might want to reconsider:
Reasons to Get a Pet
1. Adopting or fostering a pet shouldn’t put your health at risk.
It doesn’t look like pets can pass the coronavirus to people, according to veterinarian Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, director of the CDC’s One Health Office.
And animal shelters are doing their part to keep you safe. Dr. Erin Katribe, medical director of Best Friends Animal Society, says shelters are taking precautions to protect the public and their own staff:
- 2-week holds on pets exposed to COVID-19
- Virtual adoption/fostering meetings and counseling
- Electronic paperwork
- Curbside pickup or home delivery of the pet
- In-person adoptions/fostering by appointment only
Dr. Katribe has noticed a plus side to these new procedures: “This gives potential adopters an even better look into how that pet might fit into their home.”
2. The vet is (probably) still in—if you really need them.
Most veterinary practices are still available for emergencies and vaccinations, and many offer telemedicine services. So, you won’t be stranded with a new pet and no veterinary care. Your adopted/fostered pet should already have received vaccines, though spaying and neutering might be postponed.
“Shelters do their best to send home healthy pets, but sometimes issues may develop after adoption,” says Dr. Katribe. “If adopters do have trouble getting in to see a vet, I recommend that they contact the shelter they adopted from to seek further guidance. That shelter may be able to provide care or direct them to a clinic that can help.”
3. The timing is right for training.
“Most of us are spending more time at home, which will allow us to spend that extra time bonding with and potentially training the new pet while they get settled in,” Dr. Katribe says.
Adopting a pet at this moment in particular presents a unique opportunity. Dr. Nancy R Gee, director of the Center for Human & Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine, says, “It’s important for the entire family to participate in training the pet. This helps to instill a fundamental understanding of what the goals are, and how to achieve those goals, so that everyone can be consistent in what they are doing with the pet.”
Dr. Gee recommends using positive training techniques, which you can learn via online training classes, videos, and even one-on-one sessions.
4. Your teen is home to help.
While the whole family should divvy up duties by age level, responsible teens can take on even the most challenging of pet-care tasks “with the help, guidance, and supervision of an adult,” Dr. Gee explains. “As the teen demonstrates competency, consistency, and concern for the pet over time, the parent can begin to relax the level of required supervision.”
Check in now and then to make sure your teen follows through—as you know, they can get distracted. If your teen loses interest in caring for the pet, Dr. Gee says, “positive reinforcement is always the best way to motivate people and animals.”
Resist the urge to pay your teen, which could make pet care feel like a chore. Instead, Dr. Gee recommends, “Build empathy in children by talking to them about what the pet enjoys or dislikes or fears and how the whole family may contribute to providing a good home and a good life for the pet.”
5. Pets help improve your family’s mental and physical health.
This, Dr. Barton Behravesh tells us, is more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis. She says pets are “offering so many benefits during this time when we’re spending so much time in our homes [in terms of] mental health and entertainment.”
Pets provide teens companionship and a productive way to spend their time at home. As a bonus, teens who are more involved in caring for their pets also benefit more. That’s because the physical and mental health benefits from pets get a boost when you’re deeply bonded to them.
“The more you give, the more you get,” says Dr. Gee.
And the One Reason Not to Adopt—and It’s a Big One.
If you weren’t going to get a pet anyway, or can’t handle or afford the pet after everyone goes back to work and school, don’t adopt one now either. “I don’t want people to get a pet just for the pandemic,” Dr. Gee says.
If you’re not sure your family is ready for the life-long commitment of a new pet, fostering may be an option. Ideally, you’ll keep the pet until they find a forever home. Dr. Gee cautions that being shuffled from home to home is no better for a pet than for a human child.
However, Dr. Katribe notes that pets “appreciate even a short time in a loving home, even if they do have to return to the shelter before they can find their forever home.”
What if you fall in love with the pet or your situation changes? If your shelter allows a foster-to-adopt scenario, that forever home just might be yours.