Our return to “Normality” after Covid 19 Restrictions
- how to minimise the negative impact on our pets.
The gradual lifting of the Covid 19 Restrictions will help us to slowly acclimatise our dogs & cats to the changes in their own daily routines.
Dogs acquired during the restrictions (either new puppies or newly adopted dogs) will require additional understanding from their owners, as they do not have the experience or memories of being home alone for extended periods from before Covid 19 to help them re-adjust more easily.
Our cats will have been impacted more by the change in our routines, as opposed to restriction of their own. It is important to consider that you have been around to play. Feed or open doors for your cat, on demand, whilst you have been at home. Sudden removal of these “benefits” may unsettle your cat, so gradual readjustments of normal “service” will help reduce the resultant stress for them.
It is also worth being mindful of the effect of people wearing masks over their faces, which has and will become more of the norm. Face masks reduce our pets’ ability to read our faces and expressions, and as a result, may induce a fearful or wary response. If members of your household wear face masks at home periodically and ideally reinforced with provision of positive experiences (play, food rewards or praise) it will help to familiarise this as the new norm and nothing to be fearful of.
Every dog or cat is an individual and so, they will vary in how they cope with the adjustments but there are 3 main areas for you to consider in helping them adjust with minimal stress or disruption detailed below:
Think about what makes your dog happy? Is it a comfy bed beside the window, a food dispensing puzzle toy, listening to classical music or the radio? Dogs who bark or are destructive in our absence tend to demand attention (good & bad) and are perhaps more likely to receive help. A quiet dog, who chooses to stay beside the door, ignoring food or treats until you return, may be just as upset, if not more so. If in doubt, video them home alone so you know how they are coping without you.
Independence is an important life skill for every puppy or dog to learn. Help them to practice while you are still at home by separating yourself from them for short periods, in a different area of the house or garden and use doors, baby gates or distance to remove your attention. Remember to reward calm behaviours or when they are happily entertaining themselves so that they know this activity makes you happy too!
Mental & Physical Exercise
Remember dogs think day to day not week to week. Dogs have individual physical, social and mental needs (dependent on age, breed & health) which, as their owner, you need to provide every day. Regular walks they enjoy; meeting doggy friends in the park, with a dog walker or at daycare; and using their noses and brain power to find food treats on a treasure hunt or from a puzzle toy will help them to relax when they are home alone.
Think about what makes your cat happy? Is it lying on a window sill or cat tree with a nice view of the garden or street outside; playing with a food dispensing puzzle toy, or scratching their favourite cat post or scratching mat? Cats who raid the kitchen or are destructive in our absence tend to demand attention (good & bad). A quiet cat, who chooses to hide or lie around all day doing nothing may be just as upset, if not more so. If in doubt, video them home alone so you know how they are coping without you.
Independence is an important life skill for every kitten or cat to learn. Help them to practice while you are still at home by separating yourself from them for short periods, in a different area of the house or garden and use doors or physical distance to remove your attention. If they vocalise for food or attention you must ensure you do not reward this. Instead you reward calm behaviours when they are relaxed or happily entertaining themselves so that they know this activity makes you happy too!
Mental & Physical Exercise
Cats have individual physical, social and mental needs (dependant on age, breed & health) which, as their owner, you need to provide every day. Exercise, in or outdoors, regular play and/or training sessions, food treats from a treasure hunt or puzzle toy, will help them to relax when they are home alone. Cats who spend time indoors enjoy climbing onto shelves, cat trees or furniture and finding cosy places to hide or have a nap. Use your imagination and “think cat”- your feline friend will thank you for it!
Important Note: if you have any concerns about how your pet is adapting then please contact your vet and they will help you get the appropriate advice, training or behavioural support that you need.
Copyright: Dr CL Corridan BVMS PhD MRCVS May 29th 2020