ORANGE, Calif.—While people are sheltering in place during this time of crisis, many Californians are seeking comfort and companionship—animal shelters have been a good place to find it.
“People have been opening their homes and volunteering to be fosters. We’ve also gotten a lot of adoptions,” said Mary Jacobs, president of the Our Cats Save People (OCSP) Cat Rescue, in an interview with The Epoch Times.
Some people have told her they long wanted to adopt, and now they have more time to get to know their new pets.
Some people are looking for the emotional support an animal can provide, and some just want to do something helpful during tough times.
Jacobs’s no-kill rescue focuses on saving cats from high-kill shelters, and it’s volunteer-run. It’s been encouraging for her to see a significant uptick in adoptions during the past month.
Typically, she expects about 300 adoptions annually. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, her shelter is on track for well over 400 adoptions this year.
Callie and Her Kittens
Ladera Ranch resident Nicole Hopkins, 47, went to the OCSP Cat Rescue because she wanted an emotional support animal for her two daughters, ages 11 and 14.
“I think that this is hard for adults, but it’s really hard on the kids,” she told The Epoch Times. “It’s such a massive lifestyle change. So I’m trying to make this stay-at-home experience a positive one, and I really thought that an animal would be an important piece of that.”
Hopkins also saw an opportunity to teach her girls about responsibility and providing a helpful service during a crisis.
“I felt like there’s no better time to foster an animal [than] now because the kids are home full-time,” she said.
Hopkins said the cat, Callie, “brought a lot of light to our household. She’s super loving and sweet.”
She only planned to foster, not adopt. But she made a surprising discovery within days of taking Callie home. Callie was pregnant.
“The last thing I was going to do was send her off to another home when she was just getting acclimated to ours,” she said. “I knew that we could offer her the love that she needed.
“I’m not a cat doula or a cat midwife, but hey, I guess I’m gonna add that to my resume for COVID-19.”
‘Little Miss Millicent’
The circumstances of sheltering in place also led Lake Forest resident Bob Lynch, 52, to contact OCSP Cat Rescue. He decided to foster Millicent, a seven-year-old Russian Blue cat.
“My wife is working from home now and [my] daughter is a high school senior and she is now, of course, doing school from home,” Lynch told The Epoch Times. “My wife said it’d be nice to have a cat kind of hanging around to keep her company.”
But like Callie, Millicent quickly grew on the Lynch family.
“After having Little Miss Millicent for a couple weeks, of course you grow attached,” he said. “I think she [was] bounced around a little bit, so I couldn’t see putting her through that again.”
“The experience has been fantastic,” he added. “I think she’s very happy now.”
Jacobs, who’s been involved in rescuing cats since 2005, said she focuses on matching the right cat with the right person.
“I guess you could say that’s what makes us special,” she said. “If [someone] wants a small kitten, and they have small kids, we usually say, ‘maybe you want to get a four- or five-month-old cat, because they’re a little bit more sturdy and they can get away from kids if they need to.’ If someone wants a low energy cat that’s just going to sit on their lap, we have cats like that, too.”
OCSP Cat Rescue isn’t the only shelter that has experienced a surge in adoptions and fostering.
Many Shelters Getting Help
Orange County Animal Care in Tustin has had 182 adoptions since March 15, said outreach manager Jessica J. Novillo. “Whether it’s adopting, fostering, donating, or helping our special needs animals … so many have stepped up to make sure our shelter pets and our staff have the support they need,” she told The Epoch Times.
“Fostering or adopting is a win-win for everyone, especially in such challenging times,” she said. She highlighted that bonding with pets can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCALA) has also seen a lot of help. It’s had 60 adoptions since March 18, said the organization’s vice president, Miriam Davenport.
“There’s a lot of hope with us,” Davenport told The Epoch Times. “There are a lot of people who are really willing to step up to the plate and who are really finding their quality friends for life.”
This pandemic isn’t the first crisis SPCALA has been through. “We’ve been serving Southern California since 1877,” Davenport said.
“We went through the Spanish Flu in 1918. We went through two world wars, the Great Depression, the Great Recession—a lot of different things. And it’s only ever been because of the support of our community that we’re able to continue to serve.”
“It’s so important and I’m so grateful that we have such an amazing community here in Los Angeles who are really able to help us.”
One particular adoption that “really sort of struck my heartstrings,” Davenport said, was that of an 11-year-old Dachshund-mix named Schnitzel who has vision and hearing problems.
April Misloski, 37, was “feeling a little lost and finding myself in fear-mode,” she told The Epoch Times via email.
“There have been several news articles about death, loss and pain in extreme amounts; articles about people abandoning their animals during the crisis. As an empath, it [was] really weighing on my soul,” she said.
Misloski, who lives in Los Angeles with her three children, wasn’t looking to adopt a pet, at first. But she wanted to “do something selfless” and sponsor an animal in need by making a small donation.
She visited the SPCALA website, and that’s where she found Schnitzel.
“[I was] looking for a specific animal to donate to and I came across a photo of a particular pup,” she said. “He was small and black and adorable, and he had a big goofy smile on his face. I knew at that moment I had to have him.”
Schnitzel—whose name has since been changed to Spellman, although “he doesn’t know the difference because he’s so old he can’t hear anyways”—has been in Misloski’s care for several weeks now.
“He has brought so much happiness and joy in such a short amount of time!” she wrote. “I’m a certified massage therapist, so he is getting lots of doggie massages and cuddles.”
It has made Davenport happy to see Schnitzel, like many other SPCALA animals, find loving homes during this time. “Now he’s just having the best life,” she said.