The pandemic and pets–the COVID pandemic saw 1/3 of American households adopt a new pet. If we were going to be home, we wanted a furry companion to keep us company. A recent study concluded that the majority of us with pets have been less stressed and healthier during the pandemic than those without pets. A pet’s presence helped to decrease stress and loneliness, while giving us more opportunity to play and exercise with our pets.

The added interaction and exercise has been a wonderful win-win for the mental and physical health of both pet owners and their furry companions. Pets can also add to our responsibilities and worries, especially as many of us are experiencing some level of pandemic burnout. The team at Westarbor Animal Hospital wants to look at the topic of the pandemic and pets, how we’re coping and what we can do to improve well-being for all.

Pandemic and Pets: Co-worker Cat or Canine

One of the big stressors for many is that we’ve been working from home the past year. This sounds great in theory, but there are challenges…namely the furry distractions. If your pet expects your non-stop attention when you’re home, it can be twice as hard to stay productive and focused during work hours.

It’s a good idea, if you haven’t already, to set up boundaries for specific points in the day when you can take a break and play with them. Lunchtime is a good opportunity for you to put away work and have something nutritious as you interact with your pet or take them for a walk. This break offers you both some time to de-stress and enjoy an activity. Take a 15-minute break and give them your full attention instead of trying to entertain your pet while simultaneously paying attention in Zoom meetings.

If your pet is adding to your workday stress, ideas to keep you both sane include:

  • Keep your workspace off-limits to pets until you finish for the day.
  • Give your pet a variety of enriching toys and games to occupy them while you work.
  • Make sure they get at least 30 minutes to one hour of play and exercise daily, so they aren’t as excitable about your presence at home.
  • Plan for periodic breaks to cuddle and pet them.

Pandemic and Pets: New Puppy or Kitten

Adopting a pet is one of the most wonderful things a pet lover can do. During a pandemic, though, challenges can arise for the new puppy or kitten owner.

When it comes to puppies, they require socialization which usually happens outside the home. After a puppy’s vaccinations are complete, owners generally enroll them in a puppy training class with other pups their age. This gives them socialization and a head start on future training as they continue to develop.

Unfortunately, many classes and groups, as well as doggie daycares, have been limited or canceled. Not to mention, even friends and family are keeping social distancing in mind and not visiting as they once did. It’s a struggle to socialize!

Kittens also require litter box training and socialization as they learn the rules of the home. Cleaning up pee, poop, hairballs, or shredded paper is not relaxing and training takes time and focus.

Some things to consider when adopting a puppy or kitten during the pandemic are:

  • Puppies require a lot of supervision and house training. Are you prepared to invest the amount of time and patience their training needs?
  • Many people are struggling financially due to the pandemic, including going on unemployment. Would adding a puppy or kitten add to the financial strain? Consider the costs up front, such as wellness checkups, food and treats, pet supplies, parasite control, etc.
  • Do you have a plan to prevent separation anxiety? Many pet parents are spending all of their time working from home, so when/if they return to work, pets are more prone to separation anxiety. It’s a great idea to get your new pet used to being alone sometimes.

Adopting a sweet new pet can also be a wonderful idea. It’s amazing to give a forever home to an adorable pet, no matter what their age. But it is always good to be prepared for the added responsibility of adding a pet to the household.

Pandemic and Pets: Rescue Pets

Older dogs and cats rescued from a shelter can also present their own stress-filled issues. Many have anxieties and behavior issues that you need to manage and find treatment to resolve. Are you prepared for a dog that is a constant counter surfer, barks non-stop, or chews your furniture? How about a cat that scratches everything in sight. Think about whether you have the mental and emotional bandwidth right now to take on a rescue pet’s challenges.

Pandemic and Pets: In Review

There are several factors in keeping both ourselves and our pet companions in good health, including managing stress that naturally affects our highly-attuned cat or dog. If your pet is experiencing stress or behavior changes during this time, or if you’re experiencing stress related to the pandemic and your pets, please contact our team. We are here for you and your furry one.

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