The Origin Story of COVID Pet Adoptions

The Origin Story of COVID Pet Adoptions

Welcome back to our series, "From Zoomies to Zoom: The Pandemic Pet Experience". In our previous article, we introduced the series and its importance. Today, we will dive into the phenomenon that swept the nation, often referred to as the "Covid Pet Boom."

The term "Covid Pet Boom" encapsulates the surge in pet adoptions that began in early 2020. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), shelters saw a 70% increase in animals going into homes in 2020 compared to 2019. This uptick wasn't purely coincidental but strongly tied to societal shifts such as quarantine protocols, remote work, and increasing mental health issues.

Societal Context: A Deeper Look

The upswing in pet adoptions wasn't an isolated trend, but rather a response to broader social dynamics. Here's a closer examination of the key societal shifts that played pivotal roles:

Quarantine and Isolation

As governments worldwide imposed lockdowns to curb the virus's spread, people found themselves isolated in their homes, often cut off from family and friends. This led to a heightened sense of loneliness and a desire for companionship, turning many towards pet adoption as a solution.

The Science Behind It

The human-animal bond has long been studied for its psychological benefits. Pets provide unconditional love and a sense of routine. The act of caring for another being can also distract from broader stresses, creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

Remote Work

The transition from office-based work to remote work wasn't just about location; it was a complete alteration of daily routine. This new work model was instrumental in the decision-making process for many prospective pet owners.

Flexibility and Time Management

Previously, one of the most significant barriers to pet adoption was the time commitment. Working from home has largely erased this hurdle, enabling more people to consider pet ownership as a viable option.

Job Security and Pet Care

Interestingly, many people who were secure in their remote jobs felt more financially stable, thus more inclined to take on the responsibility of a pet. Remote work has, in a way, helped potential pet owners to commit more freely to the ongoing financial needs of a pet.

Mental Health

The pandemic intensified pre-existing mental health issues and gave rise to new ones, such as increased rates of anxiety and depression. Pets emerged as a remedy for many individuals.

Emotional Support Animals

Although not all pets qualify as Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), the psychological benefits are hard to ignore. The act of petting an animal, for instance, has been shown to release endorphins, which can combat feelings of stress and anxiety.

Therapeutic Benefits

The therapeutic benefits of pet ownership extend beyond mere anecdotal experiences. Scientific studies have substantiated the healing power of pets in various ways, offering a multi-faceted view of how animals positively impact human health.

Stress Reduction

A study published in the journal "Circulation" by the American Heart Association suggests that pet ownership is linked to lower stress levels. The study showed that interacting with pets led to lower levels of cortisol, the body's main stress hormone. Lower cortisol levels are not only beneficial for emotional well-being but also have long-term health advantages such as a reduced risk of heart disease (Circulation, 2013).

Improved Cardiovascular Health

While it's commonly known that dog walking helps the pet owner get exercise, studies have shown that the benefits go beyond burning calories. Dog owners have been found to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol compared to non-dog owners, indicating a healthier cardiovascular system.

Emotional Resilience

Facing challenges and experiencing emotional highs and lows are part of human life. Pets can act as a stabilizing force during these times. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that pet owners exhibited greater emotional resilience and coped better with stress and depression compared to non-pet owners.

Social Connection

The positive effects of pet ownership aren't confined to the home. Taking care of an animal often involves activities that necessitate leaving the house and engaging with the community, be it a simple walk in the park or a visit to the vet. These interactions can serve as an icebreaker for meeting new people, thus expanding social circles and enriching the owner’s social life.

Enhanced Cognitive Function

Although research in this area is still in its infancy, preliminary studies suggest a positive link between pet ownership and cognitive function, especially in older adults. Activities like training a pet, keeping feeding times consistent, and other care-related tasks can stimulate cognitive processes like problem-solving and planning.

The Boom in Numbers: Extended Statistics

By Species

The "COVID Pet Boom" was more like a symphony, with different species playing different roles in this unique period of our history.


Dogs were undeniably the stars of the show, with an explosion in adoption rates that caught even industry insiders by surprise. According to the American Pet Products Association, more households added dogs to their families in 2020 than in any recent year, signaling a dramatic shift in pet ownership trends.


Cats also found more homes, although their rise in popularity was somewhat overshadowed by their canine counterparts. Nevertheless, their adoption numbers still made significant strides compared to the years leading up to 2020.

Small Animals

Small mammals like rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs weren't left out either. These little companions saw their own modest surge in adoptions, adding a touch of diversity to the kinds of pets people chose to adopt during the pandemic.

Exotic Pets

Exotic animals such as reptiles and birds experienced a stable, if not overwhelming, rate of adoption. While their unique care requirements may have prevented a mass adoption trend, they remained a compelling option for those looking for a less conventional companion.

Aquatic Pets

Fish and other aquatic pets maintained a steady course through the pandemic. Despite the absence of a spike in adoptions, they remained a popular choice for those willing to invest time and resources into a more intricate pet setup.

Adoption vs. Fostering

During the pandemic, pet adoptions were not the only avenue experiencing a seismic shift; fostering saw its own remarkable uptick. According to data from Shelter Animals Count, fostering rates soared, showing a 43% increase in 2020 compared to the previous year. This remarkable rise in fostering opens up an interesting discussion on how people were interacting with the idea of pet ownership during this tumultuous period.

The Appeal of Fostering

Fostering offers a unique advantage: it serves as a "trial period" for potential pet owners, allowing them to experience the responsibilities and joys of pet care without the long-term commitment. This could be particularly attractive to people who were unsure about how their post-pandemic life would accommodate a new pet.

Fostering’s Impact on Shelters

This surge in fostering had a dual positive effect. Not only did it free up much-needed space in animal shelters, but it also gave animals a chance to experience home life, which can be crucial for their socialization and overall well-being. Many shelters reported that animals that had been fostered were more easily adoptable, leading to quicker, happier matches with forever homes.

Fostering as a Community Effort

The rise in fostering also signaled a community coming together to respond to a crisis. Many people who couldn't commit to adopting a pet long-term found that they could still make a significant impact by providing a temporary home for animals in need. This collective effort helped alleviate the pressures faced by many animal shelters during a time when they were dealing with reduced staff and resources.

Beyond the Numbers

While the 43% increase is indeed significant, it represents more than just numbers; it signifies a collective empathy and adaptability in how we think about pet care and ownership. In times of uncertainty, fostering provided a mutually beneficial arrangement that enriched the lives of both pets and humans, making it a noteworthy phenomenon of the COVID pet boom.

Age Groups

While the "COVID Pet Boom" was a phenomenon that spanned various demographics, specific age groups demonstrated a more pronounced interest in adopting pets during this period. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, millennials and Gen Z led the charge in pet adoptions during the pandemic. Their digital savviness and comfort with online platforms facilitated the adoption process, which had mostly shifted online due to social distancing rules.

Another group that showed a significant uptick in pet adoption was empty-nesters and retirees. With more time on their hands due to retirement or remote work, this demographic found the companionship of pets particularly appealing. According to data from the ASPCA, there was a noticeable increase in adoptions among individuals over the age of 50 during 2020, compared to previous years.

Interestingly, families with children also contributed to the rise in pet adoptions. Many parents saw this period as an opportunity to teach their children about responsibility and empathy through pet care. A study by reported that families with children under the age of 18 were more likely to adopt a new pet during the pandemic compared to childless households. This suggests that the educational and emotional benefits of pet ownership were compelling factors for families amid the societal upheaval caused by the pandemic.

Financial Investment

The American Pet Products Association reported that pet owners in the U.S. spent approximately $99 billion on their animals in 2020, up from $95.7 billion in 2019.

Regional Focus

Different areas had varying rates of adoption. Urban areas, where loneliness often struck harder due to the high number of people living alone, saw a more significant uptick compared to rural regions.

The "Covid Pet Boom" showcases the intrinsic human desire for companionship in times of crisis. From increased adoption and fostering rates to the booming pet care market, this phenomenon has far-reaching implications. But what happens when life starts to return to some semblance of normalcy? Will the adoption rates maintain their high levels, or will we start to see a decline?

Stay tuned for our next article, "When the Pandemic Pet Craze Plateaued", where we'll investigate the sustainability of this surge in pet adoptions.

Thank you for diving into this installment of our in-depth series on pet adoption during the COVID-19 era. At Fluff n' Stuff, we go beyond offering quality products for your furry friends. In fact, you can check out our shop to see what we mean! Our philosophy isn't just a catchy slogan—it's a way of life. "Spoiling Your Pets While Saving Lives" is more than words to us, it's a heartfelt commitment. We're as passionate about pet adoption as you are, and we believe that we all have a role in enhancing animal welfare. When you choose to shop with us, you're doing more than just pampering your pet; you're part of a bigger picture. We contribute 10% of every purchase you make to a pet charity of your choice. It's our way, and yours, of supporting life-saving initiatives for the animals who need it most. 

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