Cats cry crisis as student owners return to in-person classes

A gloomy day: Yuri looks out the window of Pamela Shah’s home in Calgary on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Shah is a student at SAIT and Yuri often waits expectantly for her to return home from school. (Photo by Robin Contos/SAIT)

Pandemic pets are struggling to adjust as their owners spend more time away from home.

During the pandemic, people and pets grew close bonds. As the world moves back to a quicker pace in life, owners and pets are  battling the mental and physical complications this separation brings.

“Being away from home so much actually accumulated vet bills, because he was so stressed,” said SAIT student Pamela Shah, about her adopted cat Yuri. Shah adopted Yuri during the COVID-19 pandemic, in December 2020.

“When I started going out more often, he actually got so stressed that he broke out into an itchy rash on his back,” Shah recalled, an emergency vet visit followed and it was determined that Yuri’s sudden illness was caused by stress.

A recent study from the Current Biology Magazine showed that cats experience complex attachment styles, and an insecure attachment style in these animals can result in separation anxiety and stress.

“They’re really misunderstood,” said Vivian Shu, a former SAIT student who owns three cats and fosters two. “Once you get to know them, and they get to know you, it’s just like you have this unique bond.”

Roughly 30 per cent of  Canadians adopted a pet during the pandemic, with many of these owners being in the student age demographic of 18-20.

Despite all pets adopted during the pandemic being unfamiliar with being left at home alone – while dogs are known for being social and friendly, their feline counterparts struggle with the adjustment to their owners’ absence the most.

Shah is missing the one-on-one time with Yuri as well.

“I actually wish that classes were back online because I was focusing better and being a lot more productive,” said Shah, “He played a huge role.”

Keala Hope, clinic manager at Happy Paws Veterinary Clinic in Airdrie, emphasized the importance of owners being able to spend enough time with their pets.

“It is imperative that owners consider the amount of time and money they need to be able to put out in order to properly care for a pet,” Hope said.

It is imperative that owners consider the amount of time and money they need to be able to put out in order to properly care for a pet. – Keala Hope

But the demands of life without COVID-19 restrictions make that awfully difficult for some.

“If I spend very little time with him each day, I feel really bad,” Shah said. “Because he’s just by himself. He’s an only pet.”

About Robin Contos 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Robin Contos is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23.