Lockdown with Cats: How Cats Support Their Humans During Challenging Times
Cats are good for our health. A study at the University of Minnesota found that cats may reduce your chances of a heart attack by 40%. A study by Dr. June McNicholas reported that stress symptoms were lowest in cat owners, second lowest in dog owners, and highest in people without pets. The Fauna Communications Research Institute found that a cat’s purr has therapeutic healing qualities for bone growth and healing, pain relief, and many other ailments. Never have these healing qualities of cats been more important than during the current pandemic.
As people around the world in some stage of lockdown are spending most of the time in their homes, feline companionship has become even more important than ever before. As a single woman living alone, I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have Allegra, my 10-year-old tortoiseshell cat. As a writer and blogger, working from home is nothing new to me. As an introvert, I enjoy my time alone, but I also enjoy getting together with friends on a regular basis. For the last few months, for the first time in my life, I’ve dealt with bouts of loneliness. Seeing my friends on video screens helps, but it’s not the same as real life contact. Thankfully, Allegra is doing her best to fill the need for real life contact with another living being.
Cats Fill the Emotional Gap Left by Social Distancing
One of the biggest challenges of this pandemic for everyone has been that in order to stay safe, we have to distance ourselves from our fellow humans unless we share a household with them. Cats fill this basic need for contact with living beings. Allegra is not a cuddly cat, but true to her sensitive nature, she intuitively seems to know that I need more physical contact than she might normally be comfortable with. She has been spending more time on my lap and she sleeps close to me on the bed at night.
“Mindfully petting or snuggling with our cats is a way that our cats can help us de-stress and come back to the present moment,” says Sarah Chauncey, author of the upcoming P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna (October 2020), a gift book for adults grieving the loss of a cat. This applies especially to people living alone.
“Cats provide essential companionship and comfort during a time of physical distancing. From the vibrations of their purr to the softness of their coat, they offer us a number of ways to take a break from the world around us.”
Quaran-team-ing with Cats
Working from home with cats can be both a challenge and a joy, but I suspect most cat parents gladly put up with occasional walks across the keyboard, demands for attention (and food!) and uninvited participation in video conferences.
Music industry executive Lynn L. is riding the pandemic out in her small New York City apartment with her husband and two cats.
“The invasiveness of Zoom during quarantine has blurred lines between personal and professional,” says Lynn. “Suddenly my bosses and coworkers are in my home from morning to night. Every day feels like Monday - even weekends.”
Her two cats as well as her coworkers’ cats often contribute to meetings. “At least once during every Zoom call, a cat walks across a keyboard, dragging a tail under our noses and bringing more of a personal touch and lightness to the calls. Our uncontrollable cats have taught us all that though we may be working, we're on their time - and we're grateful for the distraction.”
Laughter and Bright Spots During a Dark Time
Bernadette DeLamar, a market researcher in Daytona, Florida who shares her home with her two cats Bruce and Angelica, echoes what Lynn said about cats adding some lightness to these dark times. Bernadette relies on her two rescue cats for a good laugh, “at least once if not multiple times a day.” Whether it’s 18-pound Bruce squeezing himself into a too tiny Amazon box, or Angelica staring at Bernadette while hanging upside down from her cat tree, or “Angelica getting the zoomies and flying from one chair to another, eventually landing smack on top of Bruce,” the pair bring amusement in the middle of the gloom and doom of the pandemic.
There is little doubt that cats make lockdown more bearable. In the United States, pet adoptions and fosters have increased tremendously while people are staying home, in some cases even clearing out some shelters.
“Cats largely live in the moment, and we can learn from their zen-like habits,” says Chauncey. “They don’t know there’s a pandemic. They’ve been locked down since adoption! Yet they accept the facts of confinement with much more acceptance than most humans.”
Do you have pets? How have they helped you through the lockdown? Let me know in the comments.