COVID-19 PET TIPS

Good news! According to the US CDC, Public Health Agency of Canada, the WHO and the OIE, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19. 

Helpful tips for navigating COVID-19:

  1. Include pets in your emergency plan. Find someone your pet trusts to take care of them if you get sick. Have your pet’s toys, food, medicine, and more ready to go at a moment’s notice. Have a back-up for your back-up. Your pet will be happier and healthier lounging on someone else’s couch, rather than sitting at the Shelter.
  2. Responsibly stock up on pet supplies. Make sure to have at least a two-week supply of pet food, treats, and cat litter on-hand, as well as a 30-day supply of your pet’s medications.
  3. Protect your pets if you are sick. The best place for your pet is inside the home they know and love. If you aren’t feeling well but are still able to provide care for your pet, please keep them at home with you where they are most comfortable. If you are sick with COVID-19, you should restrict contact with pets, just like you would around other people. Have another member of your household take care of your pet. If you have a service animal, or you must care for your pet, wear a facemask and wash your hands before an after any contact with them.
  4. Enjoy your new coworkers. If you are not ill, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, cuddling, and playing. Continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions. For those housebound, revel in the fact that you’re able to bond with your pets like never before. Soak it up!
  5. Reunite dogs if you can. If you find a stray dog, please attempt to reunite them with their families before bringing them to your local animal control agency. If they have tags, call the owner immediately. Other great tools include Facebook, Nextdoor and Craigslist.
  6. Leave stray cats alone. Healthy stray cats and kittens should stay in the community and should not be taken into the shelter. Animal shelters are focused on providing critical care to pets in emergency situations. Healthy cats are also more likely to find their way back home if they are left alone; only 2.8% of cats are reunited with their families through shelter. 25% of lost cats return home on their own.

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Helpful tips to deal with separation anxiety:

We’ve all seen the jokes about how tired our dogs are of being walked and how our cats are ready for us to return back to work, leaving them to relish in the house undisturbed. While these are largely untrue (we have to believe that the majority of animals are loving this extra time with and attention from you!) there is some truth to the confusion that our pets are experiencing with stay-at-home and social distancing measures in place. Even humans are confused!

To help minimize the stress of these transitions, there are things you can do now to help to set your animal up for success, for what will surely be a perplexing time for them once schedules change again. With a little planning and consideration today, our hope is that you can mitigate any separation anxiety related problems which might otherwise arise when your regular routine and absences resume.

“With so many families adding new pets to their home and spending more than normal amounts of time with their animals right now (yay!), it is our hope that armed with this knowledge, you can proactively set your animals up for success for the long-term. Our community of animal welfare and behavior professionals are so eager to support you,” Allison Hartlage, Manager of Animal Training and Behavior Humane Society of Boulder Valley.

Here are a few easy things you can do for your dogs and cats to help them navigate these transitions:

Dogs: One of the main risk factors for separation anxiety is a change in routine.  To best set our dogs up for success, you should:

  1. Leave your dog alone multiple times per week – go for a walk (without your dog!), call a friend while enjoying some sun, read a book in a separate room.
    • The most important thing is to leave your dog alone only as for long as they are comfortable. This might be 10 minutes, it could be an hour – do what works for you and your dog. For example, if they begin to experience distress (barking, whining, pacing, etc) at 20 minutes, only leave them alone for 15 minutes and then work toward 20. If you’re concerned about your dog getting into mischief or are unsure of their comfort level when left alone, monitor them while you are away with technology like Furbo, Zoom, Facetime, or others.

Signs your dog is okay being left alone:

Relaxed body postures, sleeping, eating treats you left behind, drinking water, self-play

What to do: 

Continue leaving your dog home alone frequently in the hopes that they will continue to be comfortable with absences once they forcibly return.

Signs your dog is feeling stressed:

Pacing, whining, howling, barking, accidents in the house (only when you are away), destruction near exits and entrances, inability to settle, self-injury.

What to do:

  1. Avoid leaving them home alone for a length of time that would elicit this response and seek help from a professional, certified, force-free trainer.
  2. Set up a “fun-zone” for them in another area, but separate from you.  The fun zone might include Kongs, bully sticks, Nose Work hides, snuffle mats, etc.. You want them to know that many fun things can be enjoyed even without you there!
  3. Invest in some sturdy doggie food puzzles! Food puzzles help dogs burn energy, exercise their minds, boost their independence, and can even slow down chow hounds. (Can they make these for humans during stay-at-home orders, too, please?)

Cats are also social creatures, and they can experience separation anxiety, too. For this reason, we’d recommend a similar approach to that listed above for dogs.

  1. Time alone daily, even just while the family takes a short walk.
  2. Give your kitty fun activities they can do alone:
    • Furry mice, foam balls, feathered objects and other toys can be left out for your cat to find. Some cats enjoy food and treat puzzles, too (read on for some suggestions)! For best results, collect a variety of toys and rotate them often.  Don’t forget to try some with catnip!
  1. Provide hiding places! These can be cardboard boxes, tunnels, or play cubes.  You could consider installing cat shelves, a new tower, or a seat with a window view.  As an added bonus, you could install a bird feeder outside the window for entertainment.
  2. Engage your cat’s problem solving and hunting skills with puzzle toys, like a rolling cat feeder, or an activity center. These tools are also a great way to slow down enthusiastic eaters and keep your cat entertained!
  3. Make sure there are ample “legal” scratching outlets – scratching is a healthy way for cats to get some energy out
  4.  and display natural behavior. Make sure the scratch opportunities you are providing are sturdy, tall, and a material that your cat enjoys scratching (you can add catnip here, too!). There are many homemade options!

“Our pets are social creatures. It’s no wonder they can suffer when separated from us. Treating separation anxiety can be challenging; however, there are many resources available to the pet parents”, Marissa Martino, community liaison and former behavior manager of the Dumb Friends League.