Wednesday, October 28, 2020

MSU students share their stories of adopting pets during quarantine

September 3, 2020
<p>Oscar and Pip play together in a photo taken by Calabria Kalaj. Kalaj adopted the duo in April from Petco. </p>

Oscar and Pip play together in a photo taken by Calabria Kalaj. Kalaj adopted the duo in April from Petco.

Photo by Courtesy Photo | The State News

A May 2020 graduate, MSU alumna Jillian Matasovsky and her fiance had been wanting to get a cat for almost a year now.

But the timing never worked out because the couple was gone too often. It was right after they got back from the spring break and when the quarantining period due to COVID-19 began that they decided to finally get a cat. 

"This is something we really wanted," Matasovsky said. "And now we don't really have to worry about being gone, we're going to be able to be here and help the cat adjust. So, we (got a cat) and we are so glad. We love him very much."

Named after the iconic soup from New Orleans, the city where Matasovsky and her fiance spent their spring break debating whether or not to get a cat when they return to Michigan, Gumbo — a one-year-old cat — was adopted by the couple in March from Capital Area Humane Society, or CAHS, in Lansing, Michigan.

Matasovsky recalls walking around at the shelter with her fiance as most of the cats played among themselves or ignored them, when Gumbo came running toward them and meowed as he stared at Matasovsky.

"So, he picked us and from that moment onward, he is the most friendly cat," Matasovsky said. "He has no sense of stranger danger when he meets anyone. ... Whenever someone comes in, he's instantly there. … We're pretty convinced that he thinks he might be a dog."

President and CEO at CAHS, Julia Wilson reported 277 pet adoptions in the month of March before the shelter was closed to public on March 24 for safety reasons due to the current global pandemic. 

"​I believe that the pandemic has really highlighted the importance of pets as companions,"  Wilson said via email. "We have heard time and time again over the past several months, how pets have helped their owners navigate a time of isolation and uncertainty."

The shelter has reported a 17% increase in adoptions over the last year ever since opening back in June with more than 805 pets adopted in the month of June and July 2020. 

Assistant Manager at Constellation Cat Cafe, Mary Nella also reported 133 cat adoptions since May 2020 as they aim to maintain their average of an adoption a day record.

"Everyone needs a cat," Nella said. "All these people that are out of their work and sitting at home bored, not knowing what to do — they should get a cat because cats help with anxiety and depression. ... They can be great for overall mental health and I know that a lot of people are struggling with that right now, especially with quarantine."

"I think it absolutely helped, especially when we couldn't see friends," Matasovsky said. "There were a lot of times when it's just me alone with the cat and having him there curling up on my lap, purring — especially when he is so loud and present — it really helped me feel like I wasn't alone."

When the spring semester transitioned to online classes, human biology senior Calabria Kalaj had a lot of free time on her hands. She decided now would be the perfect time to get a pet she has been wanting to get for a while now.

So, Kalaj went to her nearest Petco during the quarantine and got herself a pair of ferrets. Oscar and Pip, both born in January 2020, have now been living with Kalaj for over four months.

"Originally, I just got Pip first, the girl, but then I felt like she needed a friend," Kalaj said. "So, it was a week later that I got Oscar … They are definitely more work than I thought there were going to be — cleaning the cage at the beginning especially was a lot of work — but they love to play like all day long. So, it's great."

Kalaj said her ferrets helped her immensely during the quarantine period as she was having a hard time with socially distancing herself. Being mostly confined to her apartment was difficult in the beginning but having Oscar and Pip made it easier for Kalaj to be home all the time as they kept her thoroughly entertained.

"They like to steal my stuff and burrow the items," Kalaj said. "Yesterday, I had my TV's remote controller on the floor. And (one of them) took it and hit it underneath the dresser in my room, and I couldn't find it for a while."

Already having a female 12-year-old dog, business sophomore Kaitlyn Mather wanted to get another dog to provide her older dog with a companion for its old days when Mather and her family is out for school and work. When the quarantine hit, Mather went back to her family in Walled Lake, Michigan and decided to get a puppy. 

Within a week, Mather found a Pomeranian and Westie mix-breed, newly-born male puppy from an accidental litter and decided to take him home in the hopes he would get along with their preowned Cairn Terrier. And therefore, the 8-week-old Covey — named after author Stephen Covey — found a home with Mather and her family.

"My mom took us away to our cabin up north, so I was not able to see anyone even if they were quarantining for three months,” Mather said. “So, he definitely helped me during that time. And that's why I was so obsessed with him ... and (I was) bringing him with me everywhere. For the first couple weeks, I completely neglected any rules or any training that I was supposed to do, and I let him sleep in my bed. … I don’t recommend it.”

Mather said she adores Covey and has grown extremely attached to her puppy during the quarantine, which is why she would be taking him with her when she returns to East Lansing for the upcoming fall semester.

This article is part of our Welcome Week print edition. Read the full issue here.

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