Everyone wants to do their part to shelter in place and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. You know you need to stay at home and reduce your contact with those outside of your household.
Your pets, however, don’t realize what’s going on. A rambunctious puppy or reclusive cat may be feeling the effects of the whole family staying home and indoors more than others. Use these seven tips to help your furry family members feel calm, comfortable and loved while everyone is inside.
1. Stock Up on Pet Food
You’ve planned for the next couple weeks of meals for your family. You have the freezer and pantry stocked with ingredients so you can limit your trips to the grocery store for some time. Do yourself, and your neighbors, a favor by doing the same for your pets. Try to stock up on enough pet food and other necessary supplies, like kitty litter, to last at least a month.
Take stock of your current pet food supply and estimate how long you expect it to last. Most pets supply stores are still open, but you don’t want to make any extra trips outside. If you’re running low, contact your local pet store and ask about curbside pickup to reduce your contact with others. You can also order pet food online, but you may have to wait a few extra days for it to arrive.
Make sure you also have other essential pet supplies, such as any medications or supplements. Ask your vet if you can refill pet prescriptions early to get the supply you need.
2. Stay Up to Date on Your Vet’s Policies
Remember, the vet’s office is a healthcare facility. While they may not have human patients, there’s a chance your vet could be limited on medical supplies. Your vet might face shortages of masks or disinfectants as these supplies go towards hospitals and human healthcare facilities.
You also don’t want to put your vet in danger by making unnecessary visits. Call your vet first to check their current policy. You may only be able to get an appointment if it’s an emergency, and regular visits will have to wait. Many vets are offering curbside drop-off and pickup for pets that need services. This limits your contact with office staff while still ensuring your pet gets the care it needs.
3. Provide Hands-Off Mental Stimulation
Being cooped up in a full house might be exciting for some pets, like a dog. While it’s fun to play with your pet all the time at first, trying to keep them stimulated all the time can get exhausting. Invest in some puzzle toys for your pets to keep them entertained, even if you’re not paying attention.
Hands-off toys and puzzles can also help pets that are used to being alone and may be feeling overwhelmed by the constant attention. Cats, in particular, are prone to being reclusive when overstimulated by their human companions. Try offering your less enthusiastic pets a toy that keeps their mind off the crowded house.
4. Pay Close Attention to Pet Behavior
While you don’t want to overwhelm your pets, you do want to keep a close eye on their behavior. Families with young children should pay extra close attention to the interactions between children and pets. Your pets may like the extra attention at first, but they’re probably not ready to be babysitters.
Watch your pet for signs of aggression, anxiety or fear while you shelter in place. Their routine may be vastly different than it was before, and that can quickly cause an animal to act out. Give your pets a place that’s their own so they have somewhere to go when they’re feeling overwhelmed. For example, a dog kennel or a cat bed tucked into a closet. Make sure this pet space is away from the hustle and bustle of the house, allowing your pet the time they need to decompress.
5. Play, Play, Play
All pets need some stimulation through play, and being stuck inside is probably going to increase their need. Dogs especially need extra playtime while you’re staying indoors. If you have a puppy or high-energy dog that usually gets a lot of time outside, be sure to try new toys or games to get the exercise they need.
Some ways to exercise your dog indoors include:
- Setting up an obstacle course around the house.
- Hiding dog treats so your dog has to go on a scavenger hunt.
- Running your dog up and down the stairs.
- Tug of war or fetch in the most open area of your home.
6. Teach Them a New Trick
Being stuck inside is a great time to work on a new trick or two with your pet. Try teaching your dog to roll over or a cat to play fetch. There are plenty of tips, tricks and tutorials online to help you teach your pet a new skill.
Not only will your pet be able to do a new trick, but trick training helps reinforce obedience skills. You also get to bond with your pet in a different way than belly rubs or scratches behind their ears.
7. Create an Emergency Plan for Pets
Do you know what you’ll do with your pets if you get sick or another emergency comes up? While you’re stuck indoors, consider creating a pet disaster plan so you know your pets are cared for in an emergency. Create a binder or file folder containing all the important information on your pet, such as:
- Food and feeding schedule
- Daily routine, such as when your dog usually goes to the bathroom
- Medications or supplements
- Likes and dislikes
- Personality assessment (timid, excitable, friendly, shy, etc.)
- Emergency contacts including the vet, family members, friends or kennel
- Important documents (vaccination records, micro chip information, etc.)
Staying indoors is difficult enough for humans, but your pets don’t know why they’re stuck at home. Make it easier by providing them with the attention, and space, they need to be happy, healthy and comfortable.