Adjusting your pets to a new way of life during the COVID-19 pandemic
By John Morgan | Dated April 9, 2020
We all know there have been some pretty big changes throughout the world over the last few weeks. We are working from home, avoiding travel and not dining out or going to social gatherings. This has undoubtedly has significant impacts on our lives AND our mental health. At Gordon Vet Hospital we thought we would bring up some of the potential impacts for our four legged family members during these uncertain times. Please be advised this advice is general in nature and please contact us on 94983000 if you are having trouble with behavioural issues with your pets at home.
Dogs are currently relishing the extra time they have to spend with family members. They are going on an exponentially increasing number of walks and getting endless lap time. While improving the bond with your dog is always important it is also important to note that all this additional affection and time together is likely to be temporary… Once restrictions are lifted in the coming months a lot of dogs will struggle to readapt to their new reality of less human time! Some tips to help reduce the impact of our return to normal:
- Try to have some time away from your dogs through the day. This can be done by keeping them in a separate part of the house or backyard. Initially they will object but it is important for them to realise that you are not constantly available for their every whim. Start small (15-30 minutes) and gradually increase this time over the coming weeks. Do not let them back if they are demonstrating undesirable behaviour such as scratching the door or barking.
- Do not reinforce separation anxiety by showing an exaggerated greeting when you come back – for dogs that fret or become anxious when you are out of the house a very energetic HELLLOOOO! and showering of affection only teaches dogs that they were right to be anxious while you were away and they should keep behaving like that. It is better to reenter the house calmly, put everything down or away if you have been shopping and only engage with your dog once they have fully settled (sitting calmly or lying in bed).
- Medication may be helpful in some cases – if, after everything returns to normal, you your dog is struggling to adapt speak to us about some options. A behavioural consult may be useful, or alternatively we may recommend medication to help.
Cats will often thrive when they can get your attention regularly and they are likely loving the extra “keyboard time” at the moment. It is important to remember, however, that some cats will be uncomfortable with all the extra 2 legged creatures around invading kingdom and may show signs of stress including urinary tract disease, excessive grooming or aggression with all the changes that are going on. Some things you can do to help:
- Provide places like open cardboard boxes for cats to hide in high places. This might include above appliances, or on top shelves. Make sure they are comfortable jumping to the locations you have provided.
- Set boundaries for children with cats so they aren’t constantly playing with them. Some cats love kids but others need some alone time. In some cases it might be worthwhile putting cats in a separate part of the house for a few hours.
- Use Feliway spray or diffusers – this is a feline facial pheromone product that is helpful in reducing stress in cats.
- Speak to use about anti anxiety medications or other ways to help manage feline behavioural issues.