The loss of our daily routines as we knew them—and the threat of more serious casualties to come from COVID-19—has put a serious emotional strain on all of us. So perhaps it should come as no surprise to see social media feeds flooded with photos and videos of cats, dogs, and other companion animals rising to the occasion.
Pets are serving as our companions in coping throughout the U.S., from suburban kitties taking over “office” chairs and keyboards to rural dogs hunkering down at home. Even celebrities have gotten in on the act—with Anthony Hopkins serenading his cat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger delivering a stay-at-home video PSA starring his pet donkey and miniature horse in his kitchen.
In day-to-day life, seniors tend to more at risk of social isolation and loneliness because of factors related to that stage of life, including spouses and friends passing away, being stuck at home due to health or transportation issues, or children being occupied with work and raising their own families.
Now, though, “everyone is truly physically isolated,” said Mueller, who is curious whether the same benefits seen in seniors apply to the general population during COVID-19.
Mueller said that people these days should consider spending extra time with their pet—it could provide a much-needed boost.
“A lot of us are connecting remotely with other people right now, and that’s great,” she said. “But pets are physically present in a way that other forms of social and emotional support aren’t these days for many people, and there’s really something to having that tactile component of petting or touching a pet.”