Thinking of Adopting a Pet During Quarantine?

Pets can be wonderful companions during great times and even more so during bad times. I know first hand that animals are a great comfort. Heck, even the CDC and the NIH acknowledge that there’s something about pets that can just make us feel better.

That’s why it’s no surprise to me that there would be big spike in interest around pet adoption during this novel coronavirus pandemic.

If COVID-19 is going to force everyone to stay at home for an indefinite period, then getting a new companion pet becomes even more attractive.

That’s true whether you’re a family with young, energetic-and-bored kids; whether you’re a couple that all of a sudden has time for lots of long walks; or you’re a single person cooped up alone and feeling lonely without your usual social outlets.

Google Search trends for 'pet adoption' and 'adopt a dog'.

A big spike in interest: Google Search trends show that more people started exploring the idea of getting a pet as many of us were stuck at home.

(Traffic to my page about “best parrots for families” saw a big spike in traffic at the same time!)

If you had been weighing the pros and cons of pet ownership before and were in the process of adopting an adult animal, then perhaps now would still be a good time to go ahead.

However, if you’re only thinking about getting a pet — whether it’s a dog, cat, bird or small mammal — because of coronavirus quarantine, then consider the following.

Animals Are a Long-Term Commitment

Eventually, we’re going to go back to work. If you’re only getting a companion because it fits your needs and situation now, what is your plan for when our human lives starts to return to some semblance of normalcy? Will you still be able to provide the necessary amount of attention to your companion… for years to come?

Just like I would strongly discourage getting a bunny for Easter or a pet as a Christmas present — because live animals are not seasonal accessories — I think it’s a bad idea to entertain the idea of a new pet now if it is born out of temporary boredom or loneliness.

Remember that animals live a long time. Dogs can live a dozen years. Some cats twice that. And pet parrots can live dozens of years (dozens, as in several decades), which means they’ll need love and attention long after your young kids have flown the nest.

Don’t make a knee-jerk decision now that won’t work for your lifestyle in 6 months, much less for the rest of your potential pet’s lifespan.

Animals Don’t Respect Your Work-From-Home Routine

Pets don’t just want attention when you’re ready to settle down for a snuggle. Can you handle demanding and noisy pets when you’re trying to work? What’s your plan if your dog starts demanding to be let out or your pet bird starts screaming incessantly?

If you are temporarily working from home because the office is shut down, you may not have an ideal (sound proofed) home office, which makes it even harder to focus on work and get into the zone. And there’s no coffee shop to escape to when you need a break from a needy animal (or family member). Will your furry or feathered companion become an additional source of annoyance and tension during already-stressful times (or doing the 10-hour marathon Zoom sessions that seem to be all the rage these days)?

Socialization Is Hard Under Stay-at-Home Orders

If you’re excited to bring a young puppy home, just keep in mind that there are some standard timelines for socialization that are important but pretty hard to stick to now. While a dog park may be ok, depending on the circumstances and your ability to stay socially distant (and not pet every dog at the park!), I wouldn’t recommend taking your young pupper to group behavior classes while the virus is still out of control.

These Routines Are Not Sustainable

Pets, like humans, need routines. A new pet you bring into your household now is going to get used to your current routine. Be gentle and patient if your animal starts to act out or exhibits signs of separation anxiety once you return to your life outside of the home.

Just like a puppy needs to be socialized with humans and other dogs, animals also need to be “socialized” (I.e., trained) on how to entertain themselves and be ok on their own.

An Opportunity to Become Better Pet Owners

One good thing that may come out of our current lock-down situation is that we have an opportunity for real empathy and insight into what our pets’ lives are like when we are gone.

Are you bored?

Is your brain turning to mush due to lack of social activity and novelty?

Are your muscles turning to mush because you’ve become sedentary?

Are you feeling anxious and claustrophobic and turning to terrible habits?

Guess what… that’s probably what many pets’ lives look like most of the time when their owners are gone at work.

If you already have pets, use these feelings to motivate you to introduce them to many more enrichment opportunities. That doesn’t just mean toys. It means opportunities to socialize, to see and smell and taste a variety of new things, to be challenged intellectually, to learn via trick training sessions, to make their own decisions — all the time, not just once in a blue moon.

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Interested in learning more about parrot-specific enrichment? Phoenix Landing is offering its classes online during COVID-19; as always, classes are free for anyone, whether you’re a prospective, new or current bird owner. Learn more.

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Of course, the issues I bring up are solvable. Any pet you get now isn’t doomed to a neglected life when you return to work. Far from it! Just make sure the commitment you’re making to adopt a pet is based on your long-term plans, not the current coronavirus situation.