It’s safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us. Many of us are working from home, having to find new ways to be productive and entertain ourselves, as well as trying new methods to connect with our loved ones. While many people are going stir crazy being stuck at home, those of us with pets are probably finding quarantine to be a little more enjoyable. However, being a pet owner during these uncertain times poses some additional challenges, such as stocking up on pet essentials and finding ways to keep our four-legged family members engaged, especially ones who are used to being outdoors. In honor of National Pet Parents Day on April 26th, here is a list of ways to keep your pets happy, healthy, and engaged during quarantine so you can continue being a great pet parent!
Purchase Extra Essentials
No, this doesn’t mean you should run to Target and buy every last bag of dog or cat food they have, but you should buy enough to last you for at least a month at a time. Another option is to have high-quality meals sent right to your doorstep through specialized services. Pet Plate delivers dog food that is made from human-grade ingredients and are pre-prepared and portioned so they can be served with pretty much no effort on your end.
Of course, food is not the only thing you should be prepping for during quarantine. If you have a cat, make sure to have extra cat litter on hand as well. World’s Best Cat Litter is made from a formula that clumps more easily, absorbs odor and guarantees a bag will last you much longer than regular litter. Also, if your pet takes any medication, be sure to buy a large enough supply to last you through extended isolation – the same goes for anti-parasite treatments.
Stick to Their Normal Routine
It’s likely that your own routine has been disrupted quite significantly, so it can be tempting to let your pet’s routines fall by the wayside, as well. Dr. Annie Valuska, a Purina behaviorist, advises against this: “It’s important to try to keep your pet’s routine as intact as possible. Feeding, potty, and walks should all happen when they normally do, and if your dog is used to going in the car, it’s not a bad idea to continue to take them for short drives.”
She also advises pet parents to continue to ask for good manners, such as sitting before going through a doorway or not begging for table scraps.
Give Them Time to Rest
Our pets are used to us being away, so be sure to give them plenty of time to rest throughout the day. Another Purina behaviorist, Dr. Francois Martin says, “It is not a good idea to change your pet’s routine with a lot of socialization. Pets are not kids. Owners don’t have to keep them busy with things to do all day.”
Have Plenty of Chew Toys
A great way to keep your pet entertained while you have conference calls, homeschooling sessions, or just need some rest is to give them a long-lasting chew treat.
If your pet tends to scarf down their treats, Kongs and other heavy-duty toys can be stuffed with peanut butter or yogurt and then frozen for a longer-lasting distraction.
Dr. Séverine Ligout, a Purina behaviorist, mentions that these treats can be a fun activity for your pet, but it can be easy to overfeed them. Make sure to keep calorie counts in mind and offset the extra treat calories by feeding a little less at mealtime.
Keep Up on Exercise
Staying active during this time is not only beneficial for yourself, but for your pet as well. Even if you can’t take your dog to the dog park for exercise, you can still find ways to get their energy out. Even a trip out to the mailbox can offer a little exercise. If you are stuck inside, move some furniture out of the way to make room for a game of fetch or tug of war.
If you have a backyard, get out there and play a game of chase. Purina behaviorist Serena Juma suggests using exercise as another way to maintain your pet’s schedule. She adds, “Have planned play sessions at around the same time each day. This will encourage your pet to follow routine, while also providing physical and mental stimulation, as well as promoting the human-animal bond.”
Incorporate Some Mind Games
Using mental stimulation is another great way to tire your pet out, such as teaching them a new trick or two. Purina behaviorist Dr. Ragen McGowan describes, “Just like people, pets experience what we call the ‘Eureka Effect,’ or the emotional response to problem solving. That ‘ah ha’ moment when you finally figure something out. You feel a positive surge of emotions. Our pets experience that as well.”
Feeding time can also be used to mentally enrich your pet’s day. Scatter their food throughout the house and let them use their sense of smell to find it. You could also incorporate a puzzle toy into feeding to give them a little mental challenge.
Be a Thoughtful Roommate
No one likes a roommate who is always making noise and your pet is no exception. While you and your pet are now spending much more time together, keep in mind that pets can hear a lot better than we can, so try to keep excessive noise to a minimum.
Dr. Valuska suggests, “If background noise is a must, consider subbing in some classical music (which studies show can help calm pets) for the TV, podcasts, or radio stations occasionally.”
If You Have Kids, Get Them Involved
If you have children, involve them in keeping your pet happy and healthy indoors. Now is a better time than ever to reinforce good pet etiquette and help your kids understand pet body language. It can also be fun to include pets in your child’s learning.
Dr. Sandra Lyn, a Purina behaviorist, shares, “Kids still need to learn, and pets have been shown to help children in some areas of learning (e.g., reading). If the pet is amenable, then implement and encourage reading-to-pets sessions as part of your child’s routine.”
Keep Up a Healthy Diet
While brownies and boxed mac and cheese may have become staples in your diet recently, your pets should be sticking to their healthy diet. “Don’t start feeding table scraps just because your ‘table’ happens to be your couch these days,” Dr. Valuska advises. If you have been giving your pet more treats than usual to reward them for being such a great companion, keep in mind that no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories should come from treats.
Give Them Space to be Alone
With everyone suddenly being around more often, you pet may need some personal space to feel safe and comfortable. This is especially true with cats, but dogs can also benefit from having space to be alone. Dr. Valuska says, “If you think your pet is overwhelmed by all the sudden ‘togetherness’, makes sure they have a safe space the whole family respects.” She then adds, “When they’re in there, they are off-limits – it can even help to consider them ‘invisible’ in that space.”
This is a great way to help little pet lovers learn to leave pets who are in their safe space alone until they are ready to play.