COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. As we stay home and seek to protect our community, regular routines have been shattered. For many, this has meant working, schooling, exercising and isolating at home. But what does isolation mean for our pets, and how do we best look after them during lockdown?
Routines are key
Just as our routines have changed, so too have those of our pets. We are home more than we used to be; we may be stressed or on edge. Pets can read and respond to our feelings, so be sure to consider your mental health. If you do, you’ll find your pets are calmer and more relaxed, too. Changes in routine - feeding, walking and exercising - can stress our pets, so it is vital to keep as close as you can to your usual home routine.
Safe work and time out spaces
Home office OH&S doesn’t just apply to us. Extra cables, cords and equipment can create new hazards in your home. To keep your pet safe, think about securing hazards such as electrical wires, untethered bookshelves or boiling cups of tea.
Some anxious animals may find the extra noise and people continuously at home stressful. Make sure your pets have places to retreat to if they want to, while still having water, litter trays and food easily accessible.
Dogs should have a safe place, preferably their usual bed, which they can retreat to while you work. To help minimise any pet-zoomies during your Zoom calls, aim to give your pet exercise, food and water before you start your work.
Maintain healthy feeding practices
Just like we’re not used to 24/7 access to our fridge, our pets aren’t used to 24/7 access to their treat jar. Try and stick as close as you can to your usual feeding routine and avoid unnecessary treats. Rewards for good behaviour and training are great, but consider their waistline at the same time.
Establish good exercise routines
Walks outside are an excellent way for both you and your dog to bond and destress. However, if you plan on starting a new exercise routine with your pet, make sure you build up gradually, keeping in mind any sore/arthritic joints. And remember - some breeds weren’t built for jogging.
Plan for the transition back to normal
Soon restrictions will begin to lift. To help avoid separation anxiety issues, you can start to plan for this now. Small periods at home, alone, will help transition your pets. Consider scatter feeding or leave a few treats or boredom buster toys behind to help create a positive association with being alone. Keep time away short to begin with, and gradually increase as your pet settles.
As pet owners, we are lucky. The relationship we share with our companion animals is unique and can provide much-needed comfort in difficult times. It’s important to bear in mind that the routines we establish with our pets while in isolation can help give them the support they need when the time comes for us to go back into the world.
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