By Dr Anna Lautenschlaeger, Cute Fairy Tails
Aug. 26, 2020: While it is obvious how COVID affects people and their lifestyles and well-being at the moment, many pet owners are still not fully aware that the current situation also has a significant impact on their pets.
Pet owners assume that working from home is something their pets will enjoy and embrace because they get to spend more time with you, but often quite the opposite is the case.
The Risks and Challenges
At the moment, vets and pet owners report an increased number of pets that show stress-related behaviors like chewing on your favorite shoes and furniture, excessive meowing, whining, and barking, growing clingy, overgrooming, and shedding.
Here are the main reasons that explain these behaviors:
Routine Changes: In general, pets love routine and don’t like any changes to their established routine. With the current coronavirus epidemic, many humans are working from home, which disrupts all established routines and can upset your furry family members.
Emotional Anxiety: Even though pets don’t understand what coronavirus is and how it affects the world in general, they are internalizing some of the anxious signals their humans are transmitting, including concern about their health, jobs, loved ones, and rent payments.
Lack of Personal Space: Although pets may enjoy spending more time with us, most of them need some distance from time to time. The sudden lack of personal space at home, with children especially being all over them, can really stress your pet.
Boredom: Have you considered that your pet may be bored? Maybe they used to accompany you to a market or brewery, or they were used to hanging out with their pet pals in the park. While they are happy that you are home more, not that not much is happening, their boredom can manifest itself in clinginess and anxiety.
What Can You Do to Help?
There are several things you can do to help your pet through these challenging times:
-To address the undesired behaviors, consider using a dog or cat trainer online; while most trainers have canceled home visits, many of them are offering online consultations and courses;
-Ensure that your pets have a safe place where they can escape to for a break, be undisturbed and where they can spend some “alone time”;
-Maintain your pet’s typical routine. Vets are recommending that pet owners try to maintain consistent feeding times to give pets as much structure as possible;
-Keep an eye on how your emotional state affects your pets. To help your pets de-stress when they are anxious, play classical music to them, as research studies show that it helps pets to relax. Catnip also works miracles for some cats;
-If you used to depart for work at a certain hour, go through the motions of gathering your bag, putting on your shoes and briefly leaving the house at that time;
-When your pets show signs of boredom, engage them in stimulating activities;
-Thinking ahead to prepare your pet for the time when you start leaving the house more and more again, don’t set attention and activity levels that won’t be maintained when working from home ends;
-To avoid separation anxiety when you go back to work and spend increasingly more time out of the house, make something really good happen when you leave; for example, leave their favorite food out for them;
-Use puzzle toys, interactive toys, and toys that can keep your pets preoccupied for mental stimulation while you are gone;
-Please keep in mind that it is important to avoid returning to work for eight hours because it can be extremely hard on your pet, who is used to having you at home. Gradually increasing the time away from home and make more visits home or get your pet sitter come more frequently throughout the day.
Photo courtesy Dr Anna Lautenschlaeger
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