Our pets were there for us during quarantine. Let’s be there for them afterward.

The responsibilities of pet ownership will outlast the pandemic

Pets have been by our side all summer.

As businesses shuttered and schools shut down in March, people around the world retreated into their homes, saying goodbye to friends and loved ones for an indefinite period of time. We were thrown into new routines that kept us, for the most part, without physical companions, and for many the appeal of adopting a pet for company was hard to resist.

When Queen’s cancelled in-person classes for the rest of the term, the house I lived in quickly emptied to just two women and my two cats. Following my three housemates who left before me, I hastily packed up some clothes and textbooks, as well as my two cats, and moved into my Dad’s apartment for the lockdown.

Having adopted my two cats in September and January—partially for emotional support, partially as an impulse decision—I knew my pets were a reliable source of company and entertainment. In the weeks following the lockdown, I found my decision to adopt had rewarded me in ways I never anticipated.

In the mornings, I’d wake up to the sensation of Sadie, my fat orange cat, trying to curl up on the tiny bed I slept in at my Dad’s place. In the afternoons, I’d watch Eleanor, my lankyblack cat, chase my Dad’s grey cat, Monkey, around the apartment. In the evenings, after my Dad had gone to bed and I was alone, I could always count on having at least one cat curl up on the couch next to me while I worked on my final assignments.

In a time when my life, like countless others, had changed drastically, my two cats provided a sense of normalcy I struggled to find elsewhere. Though I missed living among my closest friends, the routine of feeding, grooming, and cuddling my cats offered me a different kind of social interaction that made the new gaping hole in my social life slightly more bearable.

As the first weeks of quarantine turned into months, I noticed—during my endless scrolling through Instagram—that several people I followed had welcomed new pets into their lives.

Whether I was seeing influencers foster kittens and end up keeping the pet for themselves or watching friends adopt puppies, seeking out new animal friends emerged as a trend.

With more and more people adopting pets as company while our ability to socialize with others is limited, it’s easy to assume the pandemic has significantly benefitted rescue animals and animal shelters, but this uptick in pet adoption isn’t without risk.

Although COVID-19 has had an unexpectedly positive impact for animals without homes, the fact remains that adopting pets for the purpose of having extra company during quarantine raises a tricky question: what will happen when some people realize adopting a pet is a larger commitment than they had anticipated? Loneliness is a powerful thing, and some new owners might have jumped into adoption without looking at their ability to care for their pet long-term.

Should lockdown restrictions disappear and Ontario continue to enter new phases of reopening within the next year, it’s important for us to keep in mind that just because we don’t have to rely as heavily on the company of our furry friends doesn’t mean they aren’t relying on us.

Though foster fails during quarantine may have provided us with the companionship we needed to get through to reopening, we still need to be there for our pets afterward.


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