What kinds of things should we be paying attention to with caring for with our pets now that we're at home more often?
Maintain personal hygiene
Social distancing applies not only to us, but also to our pets. Covid-19 spreads from human to human and, currently there isn’t evidence that pets can spread the disease to us. That being said, the best practice is to interact, play, and touch your pets only during this time and avoid others from doing so.
The World Organisation of Animal Health recommends: "When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food…When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for Covid-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible."
Keep to a routine
Pets like structure and can experience anxiety when that structure differs.
- Schedule playtime and stick to it – such as, before you start your work-from-home day, during your lunch break, or after you've signed off for the day.
- Maintain your pet's regular feeding schedule - and if offering the occasional extra treat, or using a frozen treat as a distraction, make sure to take the additional calories into account to ensure that your pet isn’t gaining extra weight, which could bring health complications.
- If you have a new puppy or kitten, keeping to your normal routine during quarantine will teach them what to expect when you do go back to work. Making sure they have some alone time each day, where they can’t see you, will help them get used to being home alone and they won’t experience separation anxiety or loss when you go back to work.
Provide a safe place for sleep
Adult cats and dogs need at least 12 to 16 hours of sleep per day, and puppies and kittens will sleep even more than that as they are developing. Normally, this sleeping would occur during the day, while we are at work and the house is quiet so having us around during lockdown means that our pets are staying awake and not getting the sleep they need. Introducing a quiet, safe spot, such as a covered crate or empty room, where they won’t be disturbed by video conferences or children will help your pets rest and allow for a happier and healthier pet.
A healthy pet needs both physical and mental stimulation and exercise.
- Keeping your pet active is a good way for you to get some exercise as well. Remember to keep to social distancing when walking your dog and avoid crowded places where possible.
- A mental workout is also just as important as a physical one. You can work on basic training commands like "sit" and "stay" in order to burn through your pet's mental energy and help them settle down.
- Puzzle feeders, snuffle mats, Kong treats, and interactive play will also ensure that your pet stays mentally healthy during this time.
Be safely social
Socialisation with people, other young animals, and their environment is an important factor in the healthy development and growth of particularly a young puppy, and also a young kitten. Of course, under lockdown, social distancing makes opportunities to interact a bit more difficult.
A daily walk to see traffic, pedestrians and other dogs or short excursions from within a vehicle, will allow your puppy to observe their environment at a safe distance while still being able to learn healthy behaviours. Some dog trainers will even have online training sessions that you can implement with your puppy at home.
While kittens don’t need the level of social interaction with their peers as dogs do, healthy, positive interaction with their owners and their new environment should be encouraged. And what better time to spend some quality time with your little furry companion than during a lockdown!