Connection; one of our most fundamental human needs, and thought to be just as important as the more obvious; food and shelter. Research shows loneliness is a bigger health risk factor than obesity, with the equivalent mortality risk of alcoholism… or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It is a cruel world then during a worldwide pandemic, a highly stressful time where our loved ones would usually offer us the needed support and attention, a time we are craving this comfort most of all, that paradoxically, their loving closeness is the one thing we cannot have.
2 metres has never felt so far away.
Australians and the rest of the world face lengthy quarantine periods ahead amongst this uncertain future. Future mental health ramifications from this strange new socially-distanced reality pose very real concerns. In particular, for the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions or in unstable home environments, singles or those who live alone, this is a high-risk time for increase feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression. The lack of connection as well as another human need; touch, hits hard even for the average person and this isolation period may take a heavy toll in the months to come. The Covid-19 pandemic may also become a loneliness epidemic.
Just like our pets, we are now having to learn to sit, stay, and rollover.
However, some smart humans have already fetched themselves the perfect quarantine friend. RSPCA along with many pet rescue shelters have reported record adoptions during Coronavirus lockdowns with many opting to make the most of the extra time spent at home. With so much uncertainty, it is helpful to focus on what we can do, achieve or change… and in a purrfectly karmic act, by helping our furred friends via fostering or adoption, it seems we, in turn, actually help ourselves. It’s a face-licking purring win-win all round.
With research showing hugely positive emotional, mental, and physical benefits from owning a pet, we might be physically isolated, but we can help limit feeling isolated
Ways adopting and fostering pets can benefit our mental health and reduce feelings of loneliness:
- As we know canines, in particular, can’t get enough of ‘W’s’! Pets help increase exercise and fitness, exposure to the outside world, sunlight (the all-important Vitamin D!), and adventures in nature… all of which, in turn, help overall health, motivation, and wellbeing.
- Puppy love! An animal’s unconditional love and non-judgemental attitude boosts self-esteem especially benefiting those with mental health issues or long-term illness, children, and the elderly (or just everyone!)
- Pets boost our immune system and even reduce allergy risk for children who have pets in their household during infancy
- In these uncertain times, the responsibility of caring for another, other than ourselves, gives us a sense of purpose and the regularity of feeding and cleaning maintains a routine (if dinner is late, you will be sure to know about it!)
- Pets help decrease boredom and feelings of loneliness
- Involving children in caring for pets teaches responsibility while instilling a sense of pride
- Children just LOVE animals and pets help keep them occupied during long stints at home (good for everyone’s mental health!) while the furry family members will love lapping up all the extra stimulation and attention
- Pat me meow! Pets help bring us back to the present moment. With an uncertain future ahead, isolation, widespread financial strain and too much time on our hands to think about it, this practice is crucial.
- Did you know pets also increase social interaction? This may not be helpful presently but is yet another bonus to look forward to
- Take a break from the world stress – and pat your cat! Studies show even petting an animal for a few minutes reduces feelings of anxiety and stress, lowers cortisol, and blood pressure. Affection from our loving pets can also help with the current lack of in-person contact, touch, and hugs with loved ones in this foreign new environment
- Need a filing cabinet guard, or a seat warmer? Work is a much happier experience with a friendly companion by your side (or ON your work if said companion is feline) – and from our pet’s point of view, having their fave human nearby suits them just fine. Bonus: with fewer time constraints with working from home, pets can keep us more active during our workday – and get us out of our ‘office’. Taking regular breaks is beneficial for our physical and mental health while providing us an opportunity to walk or play with pets and strengthen bond
- Laughter is the best medicine! Entertaining antics are just one of our furry friend’s special skills
- The difficulty in maintaining personal relationships while isolated actually provides us with the perfect opportunity to adopt or foster a pet – and positive bonding time during a new adjustment period for both humans and pets. Not to mention, additional time to train a new puppy or socialise a cat
The human-animal bond is undeniable and tremendously beneficial all round. As the current socially-distanced world will slowly return to it’s ‘new normal’, please consider longevity when choosing a pet to ensure they can fit into your usual environment, financial abilities, and lifestyle. Pets are forever, so if long term realistically won’t suit, there are many rewarding options for much-needed shorter-term fostering too. Also, take the time to find your perfect match (think about their personality and needs). Consider all options (look past the cuteness and decide if an older or different type of pet fits best). Then give an eager loveable furry friend a new leash on life.