Pet owners may be less lonely than their friends who don’t have a dog, cat, rabbit, or singing bird to cheer them up. While these lucky guys and girls might be able to better cope with the COVID-19-induced lockdowns, it does not mean that their sources of comfort—their pets—are just as hunky-dory with the way things have developed. Our beloved animals may not be able to talk, but pets in pandemic do suffer the same stresses and anxieties experienced by homo sapiens who have been confined to the same space for a long time.
Routines and changes that happen for a long period of time do require man and pet to adjust. Adjustment can lead to stress. The harder and longer the adjustment, the heavier the stress. A college student who feels depressed because he cannot hang out F2F with his buddies every weekend is probably oblivious to the fact that his once bouncing Labrador has become quiet and sedate. The Labrador probably misses the daily walks around the neighborhood that his young master takes him to but he can’t voice it out.
Or that introverted pooch who was content to welcome dear old Dad, Mom, and high school kids at the end of the day now has to put up with their noise 24/7—especially as the quarantine has enforced work-from-home arrangements and online classrooms. Again, he, too, has a hard time dealing with the change but he can’t talk about it. Not in the human way anyway. So the poor pup slinks off into one corner, depressed and sad, with no one to coax him out of it.
How do you know if your pets in pandemic are having a tough time coping with the situation? Veterinarians give the following tell-tale signs: change in behavior (from constant cheerfulness to sudden quietude, and vice-versa); restlessness; non-stop chewing on several items; falling hair; and increased incidence of accidents. That’s just for starters.
Here are some suggestions on how to help your pets in pandemic:
1.Establish a routine especially if your old one was disrupted. Pets thrive on routine because that is their security blanket that you, their beloved owner, are still there for them during this crazy time. If you used to walk them around the village every day, then maintain that even if you’re trying hard to squeeze time during remote work. In the same way, if they are used to greeting you good night before you go to bed, make sure that that precious ritual continues even though you converted your bedroom into a makeshift office. He does not have to prance around your private-turned-professional space as before, but you can leave that room for a few minutes during evening—and go off to where he is and put him to bed the way he expects you to. Respect their space.
Pets in pandemic may be having a hard time than we humans. What is sad about it is that they cannot verbally articulate their struggles. That is why the first move has to come from you.
2. Your pets also need the time and privacy to emotionally and mentally regroup as all of us navigate through the rough waters of uncertainty. Now that every single member of the family is at home 24/7, allot one inviolable place in the house where they can retreat and rest, without being subjected to the kids’ non-stop playing, your office chatter, or the loud music during the family videoke time supposedly meant to lift their spirits high. Once your pet’s space is secure, don’t keep changing it or moving it around. Give him the right of ownership in that space. Set a boundary line that you yourself don’t cross.
3. Set playtime to drive away the blues. Drive away the cobwebs from your mind by scheduling regular, predictable, but exciting playtimes with your dog or cat. Set a regular time that they can look forward to. Do something that will stimulate them emotionally and intellectually. As much as possible, launch a new activity that they can learn from and perk up to. Teaching them new tricks is one. Races, hide-and-seek games, and catch-the-ball challenges will exercise their bodies and stir their adrenaline. They will also do the same to you.
Pets in pandemic may be having a hard time than we humans. What is sad about it is that they cannot verbally articulate their struggles. That is why the first move has to come from you. Check your pet and see if he is showing the signs of discontent, alienation, and unhappiness. Then follow the above tips to restore his energy and zest. In a few weeks’ time, he will return the favor.