Pandemic pets

Gloria J. Towle, Special to The County
3 years ago

Not only do pets make us healthier in normal times, in stressful times the benefit of a pandemic puppy (or cat), or other non-human companion, goes even further.  

During a pandemic, people can be stressed and fearful for their lives and the lives of those they love, according to Research has shown that where there is a bond between human and animal, the presence of a non-human companion — especially a dog — decreases psychological arousal and stress, and creates physiological changes that make us feel better.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic there was pet abandonment in large numbers in Wuhan, China. Fearful that the same would happen locally, many animal rescue organizations set out to empty their shelters; worldwide there was an unprecedented upsurge in adoptions and fostering, said reports from NBC and CNN.

Science Direct suggests that having a pet may be a powerful influencer in maintaining health-protective behaviors, such as eating well or going out for a walk.  Dogs and cats can increase physical rehabilitation goals through behavior such as “bending, reaching, and using both arms in a functional manner to provide food, water, and grooming.” These basic activities involved in animal care actually provide exercise, which is very important for people who spend the day in a stationary position.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Queens University in Ontario began a research study asking people about their relationships with their non-human companions. The preliminary results of this online survey included people between their late 30s and early 90s, living in all parts of the world and all walks of life.  When asked what it had been like having animal companions with them during the pandemic, their answers included words like “comforting,” “good/great” and “helpful.” Several people said that they work full-time, so they were enjoying the time with their animal and getting to see what their pet does all day. Several people indicated that they would be lost without their pet.

According to the study, one participant said, “I don’t know what I would do without the company of my dog, she has kept me going.” Another said, “It is the only thing that is keeping me sane.” And others said the presence of a pet was salvation (a life saver) and brought joy. There were also those who said they talk with their pet and just having the close contact of having a pet sitting in their lap or close by made a huge difference in their everyday life.

The results of this survey are similar to those found during non-pandemic research: pets stave off loneliness, and living with pets helps people to be more active, even if it is only the movement associated with basic tasks, such as cleaning the litter box or filling food bowls. Most importantly, we are comforted by these non-human companions. The presence of a dog or a cat in the home may be the only thing between an isolated person and despair. 

More helpful tips can be found at

Although here in Aroostook County we have been very fortunate to be less affected by the pandemic as other areas, we are still being vigilant in keeping our employees, volunteers and customers at the Central Aroostook Humane Society safe.  You can call or Facebook message the girls for an appointment.  

We truly do appreciate all the continued support that we have received, not only in generous donations, but by the number of animals that have found a new home and family.

Stay safe, and remember to be responsible pet owners: spay and neuter.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.