Editorial: Are you truly ready for a pet?

The ISD Editorial Board cautions against adopting a pet to feel less lonely without doing the proper research.

Editorial Board

How many puppies have you seen on your friends’ Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook within the last year? Too many to count? What about cats? Rabbits?

Quarantine and social distancing began last March, and we are slowly reaching the anniversary. While cities across the nation shifted between red zones (high COVID-19 breakouts) and green zones, the overall idea was that we were stuck in our homes. Mental health lapses quickly appeared as its own growing pandemic. According to KFF, “53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.” Concerning college students, this number is drastically higher. 

So what do we do when we are stressed? We get puppies, kittens, bunnies or whatever suits your fancy. According to the Washington Post, “Last Chance saw its pet adoptions — mostly dogs — increase 30 to 40 percent last year over 2019. Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Arlington said it expected to finish 2020 helping about 3,385 pets find homes, up from about 1,800 the year before.” There just weren’t enough quarantine therapy puppies to go around.

You got your pet during quarantine, when you had all the time, all the at-home resources and all the attention in the world you could offer. But what about when work or school starts, and you can no longer manage? Were time and money accounted for the pets’ care for post-quarantine? 

While it is scientifically supported that animal socialization assists with mental illnesses including depression, owning a pet to up one’s serotonin may not always be the best option — for both you and the pet.

Puppies require a lot of attention and care. Besides the upfront cost, monetary needs aren’t too much of a concern. You adopt the pup, you get a lead, water bowl or a food bowl and you call it a good day. Carole Chapuis of Pet Haven Rescue in Loxahatchee, Florida, said she worries “when things go back to normal and people have less time, they’ll return a pet that was supposed to be in a forever home.” This notion isn’t uncommon in animal rescues across the nation. 

Puppies are accessible and cute, who wouldn’t want one? But just because it’s a puppy doesn’t mean that it’s best suited for you and your schedule. We all want quarantine to end and be temporary, but pets want a forever home that can take care of them at the highest capacity for the rest of their time on earth. 

Close to 98 percent of pet owners surveyed here consider their pet a part of the family — so we need to care for our pets like they’re family. Do your research and examine your own life. Are you financially stable enough to care for your pet? What are the rules regarding pets where you live? What type of pet would work best for you? (Quiz attached.)

If you are feeling isolated and feel the need to fill an empty heart and home, there are a few options you can consider that may better accommodate you:

  1. Consider other pets aside from dogs or cats

  2. Consider looking into Emotional Support Animals

Let’s unpack this a little more for you.

While cats and dogs are the more “glamorous of pets,” they aren’t the only ones! Some people prefer fish, geckos or rabbits. The options aren’t limited. 

If you want something to take care of, try plants first! They require some money and attention, and are a great introduction to being a parent to a living being. They have nearly the same benefits as pets. According to Hillside Atlanta, “a 2009 study found patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers had lower blood pressure, higher pain tolerance, lower anxiety and lower fatigue than patients who stayed in rooms without plants.”

Overall, the only thing we want is for you to make it through quarantine in a happy state of mind. What we don’t want is for a pet to harm your mental health more than help because of the decrease in time and money. Do some research, educate yourself and — we promise — you will be happy with your decision to be a parent for the right kind of animal (or plant!).