Quarantine is Stressful for Everyone – Including Our Pets
A pandemic like the current Coronavirus is stressful for us and for our pets. Our pets may not realize that there is a worldwide pandemic going on or that we are in danger of getting sick, but they do pick up on our stress and have to deal with changes in their environment as a result of quarantine.
Here are some of the ways that quarantine may stress your pet and what you can do to help.
1. Our stress stresses out our pets
Our pets are sensitive to us. This is one of the things we love most about them. If your cat has ever rubbed up against you in a special way at the end of a particularly bad day or your dog has searched your face when you were feeling anxious, you know how wonderful it is to experience the empathy that pets have for us.
However, sometimes that empathy can be stressful. Studies have found that dogs feel stressed when their people feel stressed. It is important to realize that our emotions have an effect on how our pets feel.
To minimize the stress for your pet that comes from your stress:
- Actively try to avoid feeling stressed out around your pet
- Play games or do other things to distract both of you
- Make sure that your pet has some time away from you so that they can decompress from your stress
2. Disrupted schedules are stressful
Animals are often creatures of habit, so having their schedules disrupted even a small amount can cause some stress. Changes like going on walks at different times, being able or unable to nap, and various changes in freedom can make life seem unpredictable to your cat or dog.
To help your pet adjust with the change in schedule:
- Keep as much of your routine in place as possible, including walks, playtime, feeding time, and quiet time
- Be deliberate about replacing things that have changed, like trips to the dog park with more frequent walks
- Give your pet somewhere quiet to get away from the bustle of the household
3. What happened to my quiet time?
Cats can sleep up to 16 hours a day. It’s hard to sleep when your person is around bothering you and making noise. Your dog or cat is more likely to want to follow you around and be aware of your movements than sleep.
Offer your pet quiet time by:
- Giving them somewhere quiet to sleep where they won’t be bothered by family members or other pets
- Not letting anyone bother pets when they are sleeping
- Locking your pet away from you for periods of the day so that they can sleep more deeply
4. New pets cause stress
Adopting and fostering is surging during the Coronavirus quarantine. People have time and are looking for entertainment. Fostering or adopting a new pet can be soothing and therapeutic during stressful times.
A new pet in the family can be fun for your current pets as well, but it can also be very stressful. Your pet may find themselves suddenly competing for your attention and their favorite spot on the couch.
Protect your dog or cat from the stress of a new pet by:
- Supervising interactions between your current pet and the new pet at all times
- Giving your pet time away from the new pet
- Balancing the attention you give the new pet and your old pet
5. We are acting strangely with other people
Dogs are able to pick up on our emotions, so it should come as no surprise that our pets may be affected by our new reactions to other people. Where previously we might have met someone at the door with a handshake or a hug or invited people into our home, now we keep away from everyone. Your dog or cat may pick up on how strangely you are acting with other people, which can be stressful.
Help your pet deal with your new behavior towards people by:
- Speaking to your dog in a comforting and playful manner when you avoid someone on a walk
- Calling out in a friendly way to people so that your pet knows you are not scared or angry
General Stress-Reducing Tips
- Stress-reducing pheromones. The effectiveness of these pheromones is debated, but some people find them to be very effective for their pets
- Calming music. Many pets respond well to soothing music
- Tightening clothes like a thunder jacket. These clothes for dogs are designed to compress the body and have a soothing effect, which seems effective for some dogs
- Food distributing toys. Searching out treats is a great way to relieve anxiety for dogs and cats
- Play time. A playful pet is a happy pet, so offer playtime if you can whenever your pet seeks out your attention.
Quarantine is Stressful
Quarantine is stressful for everybody, including our pets. If your pet is very stressed during this time, try to be sensitive to their unique needs and offer ways to cope.
Think about the various reasons that your pet may be stressed and try to address the root cause as well as finding ways to help your pet deal with the symptoms of stress.