I'm sure you have come across headlines like the following in 2020 and 2021:
I am part of that trend: I adopted a kitten, Pina, in May 2020 and another one (my kitten needed a kitten!) in November 2021, Bruma. Here they are:
Here's a graphic representation of pet ownership during the pandemic in cute illustration form by Mona Chalabi for The Guardian:
I was intrigued to explore how remote workers were navigating the world of pet ownership. Did the pandemic trigger a newfound enthusiasm for them to become pawrents (sorry), just like me? Or did it lead them in a different direction altogether?
Does working remotely make taking care of pets easier? And what happens when folks are forced to return to the office after going remotely during the pandemic?
So, I asked around on LinkedIn, Slack, and other social media platforms and got fascinating and sometimes unexpected responses.
I hope their stories bring you as much joy as they brought me.
Balancing Freelance Life and Feline Health
Freelancer Melissa King began working remotely in 2017 and soon adopted two cats, Morgie and Lizzie. A few years later, both kitties developed health problems, necessitating additional visits to the vet and treatment administration at home.
From 2017 to 2020, she did copywriting and blog writing for an agency. When the pandemic hit, it gave Melissa the push to go freelance. She explained that she wanted to try something new but was worried about future employers' return-to-office policies, so decided to go out on her own.
Melissa says that, occasionally, both her cats needed to take their medications twice a day and that it was no trouble to change her schedule to accommodate that.
She told me that:
Remote work gives me the flexibility to get my pets the care they need.
From Loss to Adventure
Content Marketer Megan Hettwer has been working remotely since 2012. Her main motivations for going remote were to spend more time with her young and active Labrador and to travel more. An office job would have made it very hard to give her pup the attention it needed.
Sadly, Megan's dog passed away in 2019. She was devastated, but there was one silver lining: she could finally commit to becoming a digital nomad. She ended her lease and sold practically all of her possessions. Then, the pandemic happened.
She could not return to her old life and couldn't travel either. Plus, she really missed having pets. She decided to give Woofing a try while working online and spend a month on a horse farm. Then, she learned of Trusted Housesitters.
Two of my most memorable sits were in Boulder, my former home and a place that’s still very close to my heart. One of the houses had the iconic Flatirons in its backyard, where I would take Toby the Puggle for daily jaunts on the trails. When I wasn’t hiking, Diego the cat was my work companion. The house had a gorgeous office with mountain views, which I used extensively, but it was hard to resist working from the couch with Diego by my side.
Megan credits the Trusted Housesitters community, pets and people alike, for helping her stay sane and grounded during the pandemic.
How Pets Helped a Family During Challenging Times
When the pandemic started, Katarina Andrejević, Customer Advocate at Userlist, had a dog, a big Akita named Ashi, who sadly passed away last April.
I honestly don't know how I would've pushed through the initial months of the pandemic if I wasn't able to get out and walk him.
During the pandemic, Katarina and her family welcomed a tiny kitten, Nynaeve, named after a character from Wheel of Time. Katarina was concerned about introducing the two since Ashi had not been socialized adequately by his previous owners and did not get along with other dogs.
However, when the time came for him and Nynaeve to share space, something incredible occurred: despite his initial awkwardness, Ashi transformed into the gentlest big brother for Nynaeve.
During the first two years of the epidemic, Katarina's family experienced considerable losses. On top of that, Katarina was diagnosed with depression in 2021.
Witnessing the growth and affection between their two pets provided a much-needed escape from the daily challenges, allowing them to enjoy those small and precious moments of cuddles and play.
"I don't know how I would be able to handle those levels of solitude and sadness and find my way back without them," she admits.
The True Benefits of Working from Home
Bevin Gregory, a store manager for Abenity, got her cat, Caspian, during the pandemic. Caspian wandered into her porch one day and never left. Bevin had been working from home since July 2019, but she says that she would have taken him in regardless.
I am immensely grateful to work from home and to get to be with my favorite little creature every day. He makes me laugh and smile constantly and has been a comfort on the toughest days. Plus, there's not a doubt in my mind that me working from home makes his life better.
In addition to her full-time remote job, Bevin operates a pet-sitting business. Based on her expertise and personal experience, she says that contrary to popular belief, cats are also inherently social creatures.
They are prone to feelings of isolation, despondency, and disruptive behavior when they lack the necessary mental and social stimulation.
During her work day, Bevin takes brief breaks to engage in play, address Caspian's immediate needs, and monitor his well-being.
In turn, Caspian naps or hangs out near her (or usually, on her) almost constantly, which not only provides them both with company but strengthens their bond.
Friends and family consistently comment on how well-behaved and sweet he is, which is directly related to the amount of time and training I've been able to invest in him thanks to having this remote job. Yes, he's a cat, and yes, he does multiple tricks and he does not scratch furniture or get on counters. That's not a fluke but a result of consistent training.
Having worked remotely for the past 4 years, Bevin cannot imagine going back to the office. She told me that "because I'm an animal lover and deeply bonded with my pets (I have 2 cats now), I can add 'get to be with my pets all day' to the extremely long pros column of working from home."
Addie and Dani Henion have been together since 2017. Dani says that she didn't believe it was possible to be even more obsessed with her sweet dog than she already was, but their bond grew stronger after the pandemic struck.
When it was time to work, she said, 'Addie, time for work!' and the dog would lay under her desk and hog the space heater by Dani's feet.
Three years later, in early 2023, Dani and her husband adopted a puppy, Moose. They thought they knew what they were getting into, but housetraining a puppy while working is no joke.
Fortunately, several folks in Dani's team had dogs; even her supervisor adopted a puppy around the same time. So he was extremely understanding of disruptions in her schedule.
During a recent catch-up call, Dani's supervisor inquired about Moose's well-being. Dani admitted that there had been a lapse in obedience training but that Moose seemed to be mellowing with age.
I spoke too soon. A few minutes later, I discovered that Moose chewed part of the back deck during a bathroom break. Later that afternoon, I sent my husband a recording from our security camera of me chasing and wrestling Moose around the yard to pry a lizard from his mouth. I’m now trying to schedule some more walks and obedience training...
Bringing Furry Friends to the Office
At the end of 2020, Courtney Damji (check out her newsletter) adopted a puppy, Spruce. She was working remotely and her team always welcomed Spruce in meetings. She admits that getting a dog would have been much more expensive and difficult had she been required to be in the office full-time.
Later, the company welcomed back folks in the office in a hybrid, office-optional model, which was also pet-friendly. So Spruce became a normal staple when Courtney went into the office on Wednesdays, and folks often greeted him before her, which she loved.
Her commute was an hour each way; if she hadn't been able to bring him into the workplace, it would have been costly and logistically challenging.
Courtney says that it is possible to bring pets to the office because her company has clear guidelines for everyone.
Dogs weren't allowed in the kitchen or bathrooms. And there were signs that said "pup-free zone", which helped with people's comfort. There were one or two other dogs in the office, but they didn't interact much since we sat on opposite sides of the office.
You had to sign a form vouching for your dog's behavior before you could bring them into the office, stating that they are well-behaved, potty trained, and haven't shown aggressive behavior. Also, there was a weight limit for dogs, so large dogs weren't allowed.
I always made sure that people in meetings were okay with me bringing Spruce into the meeting room, and if they weren't, I'd ask another colleague to watch him at my desk while I was in the meeting.
Thank you so very much to all the folks (and pets) who contributed to this article with quotes, photos, and videos!
If you want to reach out, you can find me at vic [at] remotive [dot] com.