Metaphorically speaking, the effects of physical distancing have caused humans, whose interpersonal habits resemble those of canines, to adapt to the isolation habits of felines. Until mid-March of this year, people went to work outside of their home; students attended classes in schools; parishioners congregated inside of churches; consumers shopped in stores; fitness enthusiasts were in gyms or parks, walking, bike-riding, jogging or otherwise toning up; and the hustle and bustle of life could be seen and heard on any given day. In essence, people interacted in or around other people…the pack behavior of canines.

Enter the mysterious coronavirus (COVID-19) which started with a wave of information and due to the infectious effects, grew at warp speed forcing states to implement shelter-in-place safety mandates. People were forbidden to leave their homes except for essential needs and services. Our lives as we knew it had been instantly shattered! Many businesses closed and where possible, employees worked from home. Schools closed their doors and student instruction was provided online. Churches were required to shut down and created remote worship options. People who had to shop for essentials, such as food and medicine, had to do so standing the obligatory 6 feet apart or they could generate online orders and have the goods delivered to their home. Gyms, parks and other recreational venues that involved groups of people were off-limits as states fought to control the spread of this destructive virus. The hustle and bustle of groups of people simply hushed. As a result, people were forced to communicate remotely or in settings distanced apart…the solitary behavior of felines.

The stress of enforced togetherness is causing some couples (who were likely experiencing pre-pandemic discord) to seek divorce. A seemingly unending intimate environment can cause anxiety for feline family members too. In an article in a Toronto newspaper, cats have been reportedly running away from home to seek solitude!

This feline behavior in humans could easily impact values and lifestyles. It will take effort to return to our pack ways!

One man expressed concerned that the changes he had to make for COVID-19 would result in permanent changes in his life/values. Part of his value and self-image was to get up at 4 a.m. and go to the gym…when this pandemic passes and if he does not return to the gym, will that change his image of himself as an early riser and hard worker?

Human beings are inherently social, so they’re used to making connections and feeling comfortable in the presences of others. Even without the physical presence, people have learned to connect virtually by applications like Zoom and Skype. That has its advantages like saving gas and cutting down on travel, but some still prefer the physical over visual contact. One looming question is, will the convenience of virtual meetings become standard and replace face-to-face meetings? One response is that a hybrid model be created offering the best of both worlds.

The abrupt change in our lives first created panic which was followed by unprecedented regulations. Mandated physical distancing gave rise to new forms of communicating. Our somewhat pack-like behavior was transformed into a more solitary style. Almost three months into this new style has caused people to re-think their “normal.” Some states are gradually lifting the restrictions, but not everyone is dashing back to life as it used to be!

When this pandemic clears there may be an increased need for therapeutic services to help reacquaint people with their former sense of connectedness and routine…or to create a new routine. As for us, sometimes the peacefulness of being a cat isn’t all bad!

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Frances Goddard, LCSW, BCD
Diane Harvey, LCSW