Pandemic Pets

Welcoming two new furry friends into our household

By Myers Reece

I’m not a cat person. At least I wasn’t before two tiny kittens moved into our home last month.

Following the premature death of our yellow Labrador in May, my wife and I began discussing a new pet. Our two sons, ages 2 and 4, could use a furry companion or two, we reasoned, particularly amid the pandemic when the boys’ social outings have been highly restricted.

We’re not unique in this urge. According to an August story in The Washington Post, dog adoptions and sales have soared during the pandemic. The author compared the trend to the “Cabbage Patch Kids craze of 1985” and the “Tickle Me Elmo mania of 1996,” except for the salient fact that pets are, in fact, living and in need of a bit more care than a doll.

That last reality permeated our discussions about pet adoption. Life was chaotic enough, with daycare closures and wild little boys beating each other over the heads at home, all while my wife and I struggled to perform full-time work and pay the bills. Did we really need a sharp-toothed mouth to feed and keep alive, too?

We decided it was too early for a puppy, due to both a canine’s elevated needs compared to a cat and the fact that we haven’t fully recovered from the loss of our beloved Labrador. So we zeroed in on feline friends.

As a more experienced and knowledgeable cat owner, Kate felt it was important to find two female kitties who could keep each other company and not be prone to marking their territory. She kept daily tabs on local shelter populations, searching for the ideal but elusive combination of two similarly aged young female cats available at the same time.

When she found two 7-week-old sisters at the Tobacco Valley Animal Shelter, she immediately drove to Eureka in a worrisome snowstorm to retrieve them.

My cold, skeptical heart was transformed upon their arrival. While they are indeed adorable and comforting, their instant appeal was more driven by the kids, especially our older boy, Fisher, who experienced his first brush with love at first sight. Each morning since, his first waking instinct has been to seek out the kitties. He plays with them, hugs them, follows them, adores them.

Fisher even named them. After compiling a list of options, most quickly discarded, we whittled down his finalists to a small handful before settling on Carrot and Jupiter. The names speak to Fisher’s appreciation of both fibrous root vegetables and the cosmos.

I don’t need to tell you that these are strange, often lonely times, and animal companionship can be a salve. In a July article published in the Journal of Patient Experience about the value of pets amid COVID-19, two medical researchers noted that interactions and physical contact with pets “lead to a variety of physiological and psychological benefits,” including the release of biochemicals that can “boost the immune system and enhance health and well-being.”

I also don’t need to tell you that pets are a commitment, which is why animal shelters and advocates are worried that the explosion of pet adoptions and sales will lead to abandoned animals once the pandemic ends.

But there’s no worry of that in our household. Besides the half-year window between our dog’s death and kittens’ arrival, my wife and I have always owned pets in the 11 years we’ve been together. We love our furry friends. More importantly, Gus and Fisher love them.

We spent Thanksgiving without grandparents or other family, and will celebrate a similarly muted Christmas. But Fisher will awake Christmas morning greeted by both presents and his new best friends. It will be a joyous day.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.