Thursday 4 June 2020

Adopting pets during lockdown - is it the right thing to do?

Whilst most of the world’s population is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 epidemic, there has been a lot of coverage in the media about adopting a pet. But is this enforced confinement really an ideal time to welcome a new cat or dog into the household?
In theory it could be – when else would we be confined to our homes for such a long period of time, and so be there throughout the day to help settle a new family member into their new home?

Some people may be feeling isolated and lonely, cut off from their friends, family and colleagues, and longing for the company that an animal companion would undoubtedly bring during self-isolation.
These are worthy reasons to consider adoption, and without doubt there are thousands of pets looking for their ‘forever home’ and the love of a new owner.
However, adopting a pet is a huge undertaking, and many prospective owners don’t consider the full implications first. The lifetime cost of owning a dog is calculated at anything between £5,000 – 15,000 depending on the breed (source PDSA and that may be without factoring in vet’s fees and insurance!     
When the pandemic finally ends and life begins to return to some sort of normality, many people will return to work and study, leaving homes empty for much of the day. Dogs can’t be left for more than a few hours, so unless you are lucky enough to have a dog-friendly workplace or the option to continue to regularly work from home, think very carefully before adopting, as it will be hard to adjust back to a different pattern once a dog is part of the household. Dogs need regular daily exercise so time for walks should be factored in.
Moreover, many dogs have come to be in a centre because their previous owner could not (or would not) adapt to having a dog and had to give them up. What could be more distressing for the dog who is returned to a shelter, having had a taste of being part of a loving household?    

Cats are by nature more adaptable, but considerable thought is still required before adoption. Whilst they are naturally more independent than dogs, many cats are especially loyal to their owners and miss them when they are away. If you plan to keep a cat indoors, he will need stimulation in the form of toys, a comfortable place to sleep, a litter tray, and fresh water and regular feeding. Two cats can be company for one another, if they get along. Consider whether it is safe to install a cat flap, allowing access to the outdoors. It may be fine if you live in a quiet area away from busy roads, but, sadly, many cats lose their lives to cars each year so this may not be the best option.
Animal adoption organisations and sanctuaries have taken different approaches during lockdown. Battersea’s adoption centres are closed during the COVID 19 epidemic. Cat’s Protection is limiting adoption through its centres for the safety of  staff and volunteers. Dog’s Trust is  rehoming only an exceedingly small number of animals, and its rehoming centres are closed for th duration of the pandemic in the interests of both staff and animals. Remember that once the pandemic is over, the dogs and cats will still be there, needing homes more than ever, and adoption decisions can be made in the light of the situation people find themselves in then, which may be very different to how it used to be, pre-lockdown.
Think very carefully about animal adoption, particularly in this unsettling time. Undoubtedly, welcoming a canine or feline companion into your life can be one of the best things you can do, and giving a home to a previously homeless animal is to be commended.
But it may be better to wait until ‘normal’ life has resumed before taking that big step ...

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