What Are Some of the Effects of the Pandemic on Our Pets?
Most of this will depend on your individual pet, for the sake of popularity, I’ll cover cats and dogs. But among that giant population, there is a tremendous amount of variation. I know firsthand from my own household, I have 1 cat and 3 dogs, each has responded to our lifestyle change in their own respective way.
We’re Home More and at Different Times
Pre-pandemic we would occasionally have a day off from work, or be home for the holidays and our pets would notice. They’d be more active than what we would see from our home camera at work – you checked, I know you did!
But after a few days of us being home constantly, some of our pets may have been confused by the sudden and big change in routine.
I have worked from home for the past 6 years so my pets are on a somewhat-used-to-me-being-home routine but many others are not. My pets certainly weren’t used to my husband being home so much sooner and often all day.
At the beginning of the stay-at-home orders, my dogs were excitable and my cat seemed a little annoyed that we kept moving about the house, displacing her from her sun spots. To combat the excitability, we took our dogs on many long walks and hikes, daily, sometimes multiple times a day. While my dogs are athletes, it did get to a point where they stopped getting as excited as they would when we reached for the leash, they literally had looks on their faces in disbelief – again, we’re going for a walk again?
With my husband being home more often and the both of us struggling emotionally with how to keep busy and keep the dog walking business afloat we found ourselves busy around the house.
Our dogs couldn’t settle well at first, every time we moved to the back door they would jump up. After a few days, they caught on and started to settle. One of my dogs, my 7.5 yr old Boxer Debbie, would start to ask for dinner at random times, she would approach my husband sitting at the kitchen table and paw him. While we knew it wasn’t time to eat, she had caught onto an unintentional cue from him. Every day before dinner pre-pandemic, he would sit at the kitchen table to answer emails or make a grocery list before feeding them. She got so used to it that when he sat there during the day, she thought it meant she was about to get fed!
My dog’s unintentional cue to be fed then confused the cat who would see her begging for dinner and would rush down her cat door to the basement where she was to be fed. When no one came down in what she thought was an appropriate amount of time, she would run back upstairs and meow at us.
My animals were confused, albeit opportunistic to say the least.
How Can We Help Our Pets During the Pandemic?
Be as normal as possible, which is super hard especially now! Dogs and cats know when our emotions are heightened, they know when we’re anxious or sad so if anything, by helping our pets be less anxious, we should be less anxious. One of the ways my husband and I did this was we went for several walks without the dogs.
It was strange at first but we found areas around our home to explore that didn’t allow dogs like an abandoned castle, an old pig farm, and many nature preserves. It was wonderful for our health, while we love walking the dogs, their health, wellbeing, and recall are always at the forefront of our minds so walks with them aren’t exactly relaxing. Walking without our dogs was also good for them, they needed a break from us. When we walk our dogs it’s typically off-leash, and as 4-legged athletes, they would run and run and run! Now they could rest from all those excursions and we could explore, spend time with each other and burn off some of those extra calories put on by hovering around our refrigerators.
The best way to truly help your pets is get back to a routine and get out of the house when you can. Give them some alone time which will be better for every species involved.
In conducting some research for this post, I found that studies have shown that predictability and control help keep our pets emotionally stable. The pandemic certainly disrupted so much of this for us and them so if we can do our part to bring that back into our homes, our cats and dogs will be grateful for it.
Part of your effort to put predictability and control back into your household should also include leaving your household, without your pets.
When my husband and I left our pets at home to explore the land around our home, we did so with intention and purpose. Having been professional dog walkers and dog trainers for the past 17 years, we know firsthand the heartache pets endure from separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is distress, or anxiety a pet suffers in the absence of a human. Most prevalent and problematic for dogs, separation anxiety behaviors can range from pawing, chewing, or drooling while in the crate or loose. Destructive behaviors to items in your home or causing to themselves, barking, whining, and even eliminating in the crate or house when they otherwise would not have to go. Your pets essentially panic that you are gone and they haven’t developed coping mechanisms such as chewing on appropriate things or resting to await your return.
While the pandemic and widespread work-from-home changes have occurred and may cause your dog to be hyper attached and develop separation anxiety, working through it now can be much easier than when you do end up having to go back to work.
If you notice your pet has developed anxiety behaviors when left alone, consult with a certified trainer or pet behaviorist to help you through them and do it now before you have a forced routine that makes you leave the house.
Advocate for Your Pets in the Pandemic
This can range from getting back into a routine to practicing leaving them alone before you actually have to. Pay close attention to their behaviors, if you notice something is off, get help for them.
Some benefits pets have experienced during their extra time at home is an increased awareness of their health and behavior. People are noticing limps, weight gains, and other ailments that would otherwise go unnoticed in our busy lives.
Take the time to make certain your pets are well. Veterinary appointments are hard to come by but that doesn’t mean you should skip them. If you are curious or want confidence in how to recognize symptoms of an emergency or an ill pet, take a pet first aid & CPR class online from an actual ER veterinarian.
Or maybe you brought home another cat or dog, either way, knowledge is power. Have fun with your pandemic puppy, good old pal or your constant cat companion. Remember to give them space and a great routine, be their advocate and they will repay you in lowering your stress and keeping you good company in these weird times.