by Jenn Hutchman
Studies suggest that one very safe and effective form of stress/anxiety therapy, with absolutely no side effects, is to simply pet an animal! With stress and anxiety at an all time high, animals are our best “medicine.” Petting a furry friend for 10 minutes has proven effects on lowering our cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Not only are animals helping us, at the same time we are benefiting them by giving them the love and attention they want and deserve.
About one out of five households adopted a new pet during the height of the pandemic, according to surveys done by the ASPCA. People were spending more time in their homes and needed companionship, which worked out well for shelter pets. Despite speculation that many adopted pets would be returned, the majority of these animals are still in their homes with their humans adapting and changing their lifestyle to include their animals.
Furry Friends cat shelter, one of those shelters that saw a jump in adoption rates during the last two years, still has only a 4% return rate. The majority of adopters came to Furry Friends looking for a companion for themselves, their children, or their other pets.
When asked, Furry Friends President, Jaimie Garver had this to say about why she thinks adoptions have increased during the pandemic:
“I think the pandemic made a lot of people realize how important companionship really is. Being sheltered at home or working remotely made their interactions mostly virtual and it really caused a lot of loneliness and a yearning for a physical connection. I think that, coupled with our new adoptions approach, caused our adoption numbers from 2019 to 2020 to almost double and to increase even more from 2020 to 2021.
“We really take the time to make sure that we are matching each cat and kitten in our care to the home that will best suit their needs by asking more questions to understand the potential adopter’s lifestyle and reason for adoption.
“If someone wants to adopt for emotional support or companionship, we look more toward matching them with a laid-back kitty who loves attention and physical touch. If they are looking for a playmate for their other pets or for their kids, we could look more toward matching them with a younger more playful cat or kitten.
“That is just one step in the adoption process to make sure we are meeting the potential adopters needs, but it doesn’t stop there. We also make sure that we are meeting the cats needs and working to understand the kind of home they will thrive in as well. If we have a timid or shy cat, then we know that they need to be placed in a home with a quieter lifestyle, etc. Our goal is for the match to be right the first time.
“By taking this approach we are able to get cats out of the shelter life and into their new home in a relatively short period of time, which means we have space to save more cats. I believe that, especially during the pandemic, we have made a tremendous impact on people’s lives by matching them with the right cat or kitten. It has helped people feel physically connected again and not be so overwhelmed by loneliness if they can’t have contact with their human loved ones that they need. We always think that the cats say “Thank you for saving me”, but I would bet a lot of times, once they get home, it’s the adopter saying “Thank you for saving me” to their cat.”
Furry Friends cat rescue adopted out 198 cats/kittens in 2019, 380 in 2020, and 456 in 2021. Many adopters were elderly or first time pet owners. Along with the increased need for companionship due to the pandemic the numbers also reflect a change in leadership, a more streamlined intake procedure, strong community partnerships, and a tailored adoption process. We believe the numbers will stay strong and increase moving forward, according to Jenn Hutchman Furry Friends Intake/Adoptions Coordinator.
Adopter Jamie Lewis is thankful for Furry Friends’ help in finding her the perfect kitty for her and her two young boys. She adopted Clifford in 2021. She said, “We considered adopting because we kept seeing all the pictures of the cats and my son wanted them all. Our other two cats were partial to Cedric, and Ollie wanted a more cuddly cat. I decided to just go and look…. I instantly fell in love with Clifford! He is amazing and a furry ball of love. He fit in so quickly and has helped Ollie’s aggression because when he gets upset he just loves on him. He gives actual human like hugs and cheers us up instantly all the time. I cannot imagine him not being in our family!”
The pandemic has taught people the value of companionship. During a time when we rely so much on technology for personal interaction, that connection is just not an adequate replacement for physical connections. Animals help us through this by loving us, letting us love them, listening to us tell them whatever is on our minds (usually with no complaints), and giving the in-person interactions humans need to help sustain our mental health.
If interested in adopting a furry companion please visit us at furryfriendswa.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Jenn Hutchman for writing this story. She is involved with many jobs at Furry Friends including Community Outreach, Adoption/intake Coordinator, Medical team/scheduler, Foster Mom and more. Also thank you to Jaimie Garver for her contribution to this story. Jaimie is the President of Furry Friends and oversees the daily operation and much more. Furry Friends is very grateful to these twin sisters. They each put in 1,000 to 2,000 hours of volunteer work for Furry Friends each year and are responsible for much of the leadership in this organization.