In unsettling times, the companionship pets provide means so much…
They’re always there for us. With a wag of the tail or nuzzle or a purr, they have the ability to turn a bad day around, or make us feel as though we are truly in the moment – so let’s take a moment to appreciate them.
National Pet Month is here – and this event celebrating the special relationship we have with our pets has a very specific and worthwhile purpose: promoting responsible pet ownership by motivating us all to share our top tips and best practices as well as information about services and resources.
This year, National Pet Month takes on an entirely new meaning in the face of the current global health crisis, in a climate marked by economic uncertainty and skyrocketing anxiety. Up and down the country we are hearing stories of pets who are real unsung “heroes”. As we endure the COVID-19 outbreak, the point is driven home: our pets are a lifeline staving off isolation, loneliness and worry.
What is National Pet Month?
Taking place from 1st April to 10th May, National Pet Month invites everyone – from pet owners and animal-lovers to veterinarians and pet health specialists – to take part. It aims to make people aware of the mutual benefits of living with pets, turning a lens on the interrelationship between healthy pets and happy humans.
Supporting owners’ knowledge of proper pet nutrition is also a key goal. While we may have a basic understanding of our pets’ nutritional requirements, this is a perfect time to brush up on specifics and refine what we already know – for example, focussing on topics such as life stage nutrition, or how to avoid over-feeding your pet with unhealthy treats.
Pets are mental health heroes
The fact that pets significantly contribute to good mental health is widely accepted – both by academic communities and by the general public. Last year, in an investigation of approximately 1,500 pet owners, about one in four pet owners said they got a pet because they know it is good for mental health. More than half of people aged 55 and over got their pet in order to improve their health, while nearly three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed believe nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have a degree of responsibility to foster pet interaction.
Pets stave off boredom and anxiety, they add routine to our lives, and give us their love and companionship when we are lonely. And in these difficult times, the role of pets is considered so vital that people have been seeking them out with immense enthusiasm.
Bloomberg.com reported that pet adoption in New York City, the US epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, saw a 10-fold surge in applications from in the second week of March. Nationally, pet adoption and pet fostering have dramatically increased as rescue centre staff connect with their local communities asking them to look after pets in need until the outbreak has passed. Live-streaming of animals and Skype meet-and-greets have proved popular – and there have even drive-through pickups for foster families where staff bring out a pet, give the family a bag of food and then away they go.
The UK is likewise seeing a dramatic increase in adoption and fostering activity. Recently, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home reported it rehomed roughly twice as many dogs and cats the week of March 16 as it did in the same week the previous year.
However, National Pet Month’s message of responsible pet ownership is particularly crucial now, as responses to lockdown aren’t all positive… Animal shelters in Los Angeles reported a 70% rise in animals being given over for foster care – likely a knock-on effect of increasing unemployment.
Meanwhile, unease among UK animal charities is growing. Dr Sarah Zito, senior scientific officer at the RSPCA recently told the Guardian that a stark increase in people surrendering their pets during the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been seen yet, but is expected. “The likelihood of a drop in adoptions, donations and volunteer support, as well as an increase in surrenders is a very real concern for us at the moment,” she explains. “Most RSPCAs expect these changes to become more significant.”
So, are we likely to see a rise in adoptions over the outbreak period only to see a surge of people giving up their pets when the storm has passed? Only time will tell. For now however, the uncertainty felt by pet charities should give us all the more reason to help boost awareness and raise funds as part of National Pet Month, and here’s how you can get involved…
“First, celebrate your pets!” says XXXX, job at C&D Foods. “In our homes and across social media, we can spread the message about how vital pets are to family life and mental wellbeing. You could also share National Pet Week’s top 10 tips for responsible pet ownership. We can all stand to brush up on topics like pet nutrition and grooming – and it’s the ideal time to make sure our pets have the right vaccinations, identification and pet insurance.”
And just because you’re staying home right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the children involved and raise some much-needed funds in support of your local pet rescue centre or national pet charity. Using social media and meeting platforms such as Zoom, you could host a virtual pet party, a pet-themed Netflix marathon or an online auction. For more ideas on how to get fundraising, click here.
Our love for our pets can be the common ground on which to form new connections, helping us even as we advocate better treatment for them. Let’s come together for their sake – and for ours too.