Kitten Season: How to calm your coronavirus stress
Kitten Season: Reduce the stress of coronavirus by adopting or fostering a kitten
Written by Casey Hersch, MSW, LCSW
May 26, 2020
Published at Animal Wellness Magazine
This story originally appeared in Animal Wellness Magazine
Despite certain restrictions being lifted, the coronavirus pandemic is still an ongoing concern. At the same time, kitten season is in full swing. Why not make the best of both dire situations by adopting or fostering a new furry companion?
As our lives continue to feel out of sorts from the coronavirus, we’re seeking things that are predictable to ease our stress. Fortunately, despite the pandemic, there’s one thing we can count on to never change: The abundance of kittens that are born during kitten season.
Just like us, kittens depend on consistent relationships to feel safe, build confidence, and grow. The coronavirus has dramatically altered the way we socialize and interact with others while, at the same time, thousands of homeless kittens are being born without the care and companionship they need to thrive.
Despite the hardships, this clash of devastating circumstances presents a great opportunity. While stuck at home awaiting the pandemic to end, willing families and individuals can take in homeless kittens. Each adoption and/or foster saves the life of a kitten in need and helps reduce the stress on shelters during these trying times. It also helps reduce the stress of coronavirus on the adopters!
What kittens can teach us about coping with stress Fostering and/or adopting a kitten offers mutually beneficial rewards. First and foremost, it satisfies our shared basic needs for companionship. Social distancing need not apply! In addition, kittens’ natural instincts might teach us a thing or two about how to cope with the stressors of the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Kittens instinctually know when there is a real threat.
Kittens know when they aren’t safe. Their keen senses alert them to hide. Rest assured if something is wrong, your kittens will let you know. It is easier to feel safe when you have playful kittens running around the house, pawing at each other, tumbling, and contemplating their next mischievous adventure. When your kittens are relaxed and playful, use this as a sign that you are safe in the sanctuary of your own home.
2. Kittens know how to recharge
Meet Pawso: A very anxious kitten. He has a fluffy bed called a “calming” bed. Several times a day, he stops by his fluffy bed, and does a “recharge.” He closes his eyes and kneads the fabric. Naturally his body uses bilateral rhythmic movements. Rhythmic alternation of right and left strokes engages the right and left side of the brain and elicits a calming response.
Why not mimic Pawso? Several times through the day, take time out to recharge. Close your eyes and gently move your body.
3. Kittens know how to stretch
When animals don’t feel safe, they won’t expose their stomachs. In the wild it is not smart—this could make them vulnerable prey. But as humans, when we stretch and expose our centers, we send a message to our brains that we are safe and plug ourselves back into the present moment of safety. This reduces stress. Try making time throughout the day to simply stretch your limbs and torso. When we open our mouths wide and stretch our bodies, just like kittens, we relax muscle tension and give ourselves room to breathe.
4. Kittens inspect before they move on
Whenever something new comes into their worlds, kittens inspect it thoroughly before moving on. During times like this, it is okay to inspect our packages and clean them to meet our approval, but once this is done, it is important to focus our attention on moving forward. Sometimes it’s easy to stress about what is in the past or our fears of the future. Just like a kitten, inspect, finish your project, and move on.
5. Kittens notice what’s in their environment
Kittens take time to notice their environment and expand their horizons. Whether it is a small bug climbing in the crevice or a piece of grass blowing through the wind, these subtleties catch their attention. They stop, look around, and notice details. Similarly, when we stop and notice small details around us, we orient ourselves to safety—bringing ourselves into the present.
6. Kittens value the quiet calm
Although kittens have flurries of energy, they offset this with hours of contemplation. Similarly, when we quiet our minds and find respite in stillness, we help our bodies and minds rejuvenate and heal.
7. Kittens remind us it’s okay to lean on a friend
During stressful times, it’s healthy to ask for help. Despite social distancing, we still need to prioritize our relationships with each other. Although some kittens may seem independent or aloof, don’t let this fool you. They rely on human companionship, siblings, and housemates for stimulation and comradery.
8. Kittens prioritize eating, sleeping, and grooming
Self-care is so important. It keeps our routines intact, our bodies healthy, and our self-esteem high. Kittens strut around the house much more confidently after they’ve bathed or eaten. Grant it, we are all more diligent about washing our hands these days, but for kittens, washing after they touch something foreign or “icky,” is natural.
9. Kittens find fun in everything
Kittens don’t have to look far to find entertainment—an old shoe string, a crumpled piece of paper, or a bent pipe cleaner can bring them joy. Just like kittens, we all have “fun” right in front of us. We might have forgotten how to play as we aged, but now is the time to act like a kitten and enjoy the simpler things in life.
10. Kittens need routine
During this time, when all of our routines seem disheveled, kittens are an excellent way to bring back structure. They will let you know when it is time to eat, play and exercise. Knowing you have a responsibility to keep this order for a kitten is stabilizing for mental health. We feel better when we have consistency. Rest assured you won’t lose track of morning or night with a kitten around!
Caring for kittens reduces stress, teaches us how to be mindful of our natural instincts, and gives us a worthwhile purpose.
For more information on fostering/adopting kittens, visit kittenlady.org or contact your local SPCA or animal rescue organization.
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