Combating pandemic-loneliness: Are animals the solution?

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 17:09:07-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — When the pandemic hit, many of us hunkered down and picked up a new hobby. Some people, though, turned to pets.

"Someone who offers unconditional love in your home at all times," says Steve Farley, CEO, Humane Society of Southern Arizona. "We actually adopted out more pets in June of last year than any previous month for the previous five years."

And for good reason. Humans are built to be social, so when we’re asked to isolate ourselves with very little interaction with others, things can get dicey.

"When we feel lonely, our minds and our bodies react to that as a threat. We feel very vulnerable in the world, we feel very alone and it puts us in a state of hypervigilance, which is not good for us," says Kory Floyd, Professor of Psychology, University of Arizona.

Loneliness is a tricky thing. You’d think that feeling of emptiness would push us to figure out a way to be social and overcome that weight on our shoulders. But experts say, that’s not how it works.

"It motivates us to withdraw into ourselves and that just begins to perpetuate a cycle: The lonelier we feel, the more we withdraw. The more we withdraw, the lonelier we feel," says Floyd.

So can a pet really help pull us out of a deep emotional hole? Some say absolutely.

"There's something about a connection with an animal," says Humane Society of Southern Arizona volunteer, Linda Grissom. "In my case it's dogs, sometimes it's cats and other kinds of animals with people, that is just very soothing. It takes away from the negativity that the virus has created."

Grissom says she spends a few hours with the animals every day and it has been a huge help.

"It’s just such a great experience for me, versus sitting at home and doing projects around the house or something, where you don't have anybody else around you," says Grissom.

So if you’ve been struggling with some pretty heavy emotions, think about the benefits an animal could have. And not just for you, but also that four-legged creature whose life you’re about to change for the better.

Available pets to adopt in Tucson:
Humane Society of Southern Arizona
Pima Paws for Life
Hermitage Cat Shelter