Rules for taking care of your pet during the pandemic

Though dogs and cats, our beloved, furry companions, might be happy to see us at home, they also thrive on structure and routine. At some point, people will return to their offices and their more-normal lives, and pets who have become accustomed to us being home at all times might bescared, confused, or even suffer from separation anxiety. “Practice waking up, feeding, and ‘alone time’ on a similar schedule,” says Richard Cross, head editor of The Dog Clinic. “If you had play times with your cat, try and make sure it’s on a routine and that you don’t give in to your cat whenever they’re pestering you for play or food,” says Dr. JamieRichardson, the Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary. Both domestic and big cats have tested positive and shown symptoms for the virus, though the occurrence seems to be rare. If you can’t do that, Dr. Richardson says to wear a mask and gloves whenyou do feed or interact with them. To prevent that from being a major issue, practice giving your pet alone time. Crate them for a few hours every day, sit in rooms separate from them by giving them treats and close the door behind you. “It’s a good idea to practice leaving your dog alone in the house, even if it’s for shortperiods,” says Cross. “A quick walk around the block, or even sitting in your garden or balcony alone for half an hour, will make your return to work less of a shock to the dog.” If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to give your dog as long of walks — or have altered some other major part of their routine, like, say, if you used to take them to the dog park in the mornings, which is now no longer advisable under COVID-19 regulations — stock up on enrichment-type puzzles and dog toys that make them work their brain. “Games, puzzle feeders, hide andseek, and indoor fetch can prevent boredom and reduce destructive behaviours. But Dr. Richardson says that the risk of this is very low — especially if you live in rural areas — and that any major change in an outdoor cat’s lifestyle could lead to larger, and worse, behavioral issues. It’s smart to make sure that you find someone — a family member, a neighbor, a friend who lives nearby — who can become the emergency caregiver for your pet on the off-chance you contract the illness. Whether that’s stepping up to walk the dog while you’re healing or taking the dog or cat altogether when you’re sick, it’s a good idea to set those plans in motion immediately,so that you don’t have to devote any energy to making sure our pet is healthy while you’re trying to be healthy, says Dr. Richardson. If you are sick and don’t have anyone whocan help, weara mask and gloves during all pet caretaking. Dr. Richardson, noting that Amazon has struggled to keep some pet foods in supply. Toget your dog comfortable with common scary sounds they might encounter, Kelsey Edwards, a Certified Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) with Open Farm Pet Food recommends playing some sounds the dogmighthave not heard before. Think: ducks quacking, fire engines blaring, trains screeching by, vacuum cleaners droning. Just because a pandemic is happening doesn’t mean that you should avoid routine care and vaccinations for your pet. But talk to your vet about what vaccines are important to get immediately, and what can be delayed by a few months. Forexample, if you live in a rural area and your pet is jumping through streams, delaying the leptospirosis vaccine would be a huge mistake.