COVID-19 issued in a new era for the world. With many states now under strict stay at home orders, many people find themselves working from home or out of work entirely with lots of free time on their hands and not much money to meet their daily needs. For those families that share their homes with pets, this time is a time of mixed blessings. While there is a greater opportunity for togetherness that pets and their owners crave, there is also the challenge of helping animals to meet their daily activity requirements and not succumb to becoming overweight or frustrated from lack of daily physical and mental stimulation. Since the world is charting a new course while people are forced to stay in their homes to fight this global pandemic, many owners are looking for ways to obey self-isolation orders while still enjoying life with their pets. If your state is currently on a stay at home mandate and you share your home with dogs, cats, or a combination of the two, you may be asking yourself—what is the best way to self-isolate when you share your home with pets?
Determining the Essentials
Even though many people live in states where they are now required to stay at home, the fact remains that venturing out into the world will be necessary to obtain the essentials to sustain life such as groceries, medicines, and any needed medical care for families and their pets. Since theses trips are to be kept to the absolute minimum in order to reduce any possible spread of the virus, it is important for families to decide ahead of time the items that they must have and plan ahead to enable them to make one visit to the store per week instead of many. A shopping list can be a vital help in this mission.
Among the items to consider adding to a list include:
- An ample supply of dog food
Though at this time, veterinary clinics and pet stores are still considered essential services, a time may come when the government mandates them to close, making obtaining pet food very difficult for dog and cat owners. When visiting the store or a veterinary clinic to pick up food, it is a good idea to buy the largest size available and pick up two bags instead of one to ensure an ample amount is on hand.
- A month’s worth of all medications
Many pets and their owners require medication to manage ongoing health conditions. If possible, it is a good idea to speak to veterinary personnel or health care providers to find out if it is permissible to obtain a month’s worth of medications in advance. This will ensure both pets and people have access to the medicines they need and will eliminate extra trips to stores or veterinary clinics.
- A supply of groceries and hygiene items to last a full seven days
During the onset of this pandemic, many people panicked and overbought supplies, fearing a scarcity of necessities was to come. The government has continued to assure us that there is no need to fear a dearth of food or items required for hygiene, meaning it is not necessary to stockpile goods. Since the coronavirus is a very serious and highly contagious health condition, it is vital that each trip to a store count. Throughout the week, make a comprehensive list of everything that is needed for the household including any treats, toys, bones, or other items for pets to keep them mentally stimulated and provide an outlet for exercise. Be certain to purchase enough supplies to last a full seven days if possible.
Keeping Boredom at Bay
One of the most challenging problems facing both families and their pets is staving off boredom. Without the ability to frequent dog parks or doggy day cares, families are limited to walking their dogs within their own neighborhoods and not venturing far from their homes. For many animals, this is a big adjustment to their daily routine, a problem that can lead to frustration and even the development of problem behaviors. Though cats are not typically walked, they do also require daily mental stimulation to remain content.
Here are some things families can do to help keep their pets physically and mentally stimulated during self-isolation:
- Change up walking routes
Though it is not possible to walk multiple times a day or to go further afield from the neighborhood, it is still an option to vary walking routes to increase interest level. Families can walk a favorite path in reverse, follow a side street to explore a new locale, or even take an unusual shortcut to see where it may lead.
- Train some new skills
Many pet owners lament that they would love the opportunity to teach their pets new tricks but lack the time. One of the benefits of self-isolation is the greater chance to devote to spending quality time with pets, making now the perfect opportunity to teach pets new skills. For those looking for more structured training programs, it is a great idea to check out such resources as www.akc.org and Do More With Your Dog that offer free instruction on how to train dogs to do new and interesting things. In some cases, dogs can even earn titles for achieving a specified set of criteria.
- Ensure a diverse array of toys, bones, and brain games
Since outdoor activities are limited to things that can be done in the backyard or a once a day walk, it is important to be sure that Fido and Fifi have access to plenty of things that keep their minds occupied to prevent boredom and the development of nuisance behaviors. During an outing to a store, it is a good idea to stock up on a variety of toys in different textures, shapes, and colors as well as raw, meaty or dehydrated bones and some puzzle toys to promote brain stimulation. These items can be alternated throughout the day to encourage dogs to use their brains.
For those at home with cats, now might be the ideal time to pick up a new scratching post and to stock up on popular cat attractants such as silvervine or catnip to help promote a calm state of mind.
Keeping dogs and cats productively engaged also allows families more time to devote to work done at home or household chores.
- Consider ordering an interactive toy
For pets that are accustomed to being highly active, families might want to consider investing some money into an interactive toy that will allow dogs and cats to get extra activity during times of self-isolation. Among the most popular toys are the IFetch and IDig. Though each comes with a high price tag, they are well worth the additional money for the hours of entertainment they provide.
The IFetch is not only used for entertainment; it can also be an educational tool as dogs can be taught to load the machine themselves, allowing them to play independently for hours if they so choose. For pets that love to dig, the IDig is ideal. Both of these tools encourage physical activity within a limited amount of space and can be used indoors or outdoors.
- Do something physical every day
Whether it is playing frisbee or ball in the backyard, going for a walk in the neighborhood, or cleaning up the property, it is a good idea to get outside at least once a day to do some physical activity. Being in the fresh air is a great way to improve mood and getting that body moving provides excellent health benefits including weight maintenance, something that is very important for both owners and their pets.
A vital component of this also includes maintaining a diet that is healthy. Junk food can be enjoyed on occasion but should not become a habit for people or their pets during self-isolation; otherwise, weight gain is likely to occur.
Wondering how to make the most out of your time of self-isolation with your pets? Follow our top tips to keep every member of the family feeling physically and mentally well during the COVID-19 pandemic.