COVID-19 & Pets

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to our lives.  One of these is the increase in people wearing facemasks to protect themselves and others.  For our pets this can be scary, as it makes us look different and removes one of the main ways, they communicate with us and read our emotions – through facial expressions.

When we are trying to help our pets become used to something new, it needs to be paired with something good, e.g. a treat or praise, so that the pet forms positive associations from the experience. 

A simple way to introduce the change to people wearing masks is by having the family wear the mask in the home from time to time. When someone at home wears a mask, pair this with a reward.  Make sure your pet has the choice to investigate you and the mask or move away if they want to.  Always make these habit-forming sessions short and positive. 

How can I prepare my pet for returning to normality?

Many of our pets are benefiting from having their family at home all the time during the COVID pandemic.  Once the restrictions begin to ease, we shall start to spend more time away from home and this can be stressful and confusing for our pets.  Fortunately, there are lots of steps we can take to help our pets adjust to this change.

The current situation has rapidly evolved, and we have all made dramatic changes to our lives.  Like us, animals can find unpredictability and changes to routine stressful.  Maintaining a regular schedule can reduce stress and anxiety.  Try to keep to normal feeding, exercise, and toileting times pre pandemic times.

Alone time is very important for our companion animals.  This will help them adjust when you return to work and your regular routine.  This allows them to feel secure and content when they are alone as it has become part of their regular routine.  Enrichment toys are a great way to keep pets entertained and to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.  For example, a treat dispensing toy or game that encourages a pet to explore and be rewarded for self-initiated play, passes the time of day while they are waiting for you.  Rotate toys regularly so that your pet does not get bored with them. Like us, most animals will settle better after they have been exercised.  Before leaving your pet alone, schedule some exercise to burn off their excess energy.

Adjusting to post COVID times for our paw-families will take patience and re-scheduling for everyone.