Stay at Home orders and the recent COVID pandemic have been a source of stress to many members of our community. Our animal companions have provided comfort and relief from some of the stress we all are feeling; however, some pet owners are reporting concerning changes in their pets at this time.
While it might seem that owners being home all day would be a dream for pets, we need to remember that their world has suddenly been turned upside down, resulting in significant stress.
Dogs, as a rule, tend to turn to their owners in times of stress and discomfort. This is often expressed in things we consider “nuisance” behaviors. Dogs may appear more needy by constantly following, nosing, and otherwise “pestering” their owners for attention. In addition, dogs may act out by being more destructive, barking more, or even hiding in the house.
Cats, on the other hand, often become anti-social during times of stress. Feline family members may look for places to hide in the house and may disappear for hours at a time. Additionally, cats may display destructive behaviors such as increased scratching and inappropriate urination behaviors.
While we can’t change the Stay at Home orders, we can do a lot to help our pets’ stress levels. Patience, consistency, and creativity are key.
Be patient with your pets during this time and give them time to adjust to their “new normal.” Lashing out in frustration will only increase their stress.
Be consistent day to day. Create a routine that your pet can depend on. This does not mean that you can’t mix in fun surprises like hikes, walking adventures, and impromptu play sessions, but keep daily necessities like meal times and walks on a predictable routine.
Give your pets space: Make areas in the house where your pet can have “alone time,” and allow them to choose to be there. Make sure these areas are safe, comfortable, and kid-free.
Create entertainment time: Make time to entertain your pet. Exercise and mental stimulation are not only great stress relievers, but they increase the bond between owners and their pet. There are many easy and inexpensive ways to exercise your pet’s body and mind. Here are a few ideas:
Most dogs love physical exercise of one type or the other. Ideas include playing ball in the backyard, simple neighborhood walks, or hikes on our beautiful local trails. When exercising your dog, always take into account their level of conditioning and physical abilities. Also consider current regulations regarding open trails, protective gear, and physical distancing.
Brain games can be as exhausting and stimulating as exercise for many dogs. Try hiding toys and treats around the house for a game of “find it!” Mix up their meal time with maze/puzzle feeders, snuffle mats, and food stuffed Kong toys. Finally, teach your dog some new tricks. Pups both old and young love to learn!
Cats benefit from physical and mental stimulation as well. Keep some of those shipping boxes and make a “box fort” for your feline. Few cats can resist the allure of a brand new box or bag! Cats can also benefit from puzzle toys or maze feeders to make their meal time more interesting. Look for puzzle feeders specially designed for cats (and make sure to keep the boxes for additional kitty play). You may also give your cat a new perspective by installing a new cat tree, wall shelves, hammocks, or window shelves for your cat to explore.
Finally, if your pet seems so distressed that it is manifesting physical symptoms. Contact your veterinarian. Psychological stress can be as hard on pets as it is on people, and there are medical options that can give your furry friend relief!
Advanced Veterinary Care of San Elijo
1691 Melrose Dr. Suite # 110
San Marcos, CA 92078