The rollout of the vaccine is in progress, and it only means one thing: there is a looming possibility of our lives transitioning to the "new normal." Some of us anticipated this kind of change after a year of being quarantined inside our homes. To many, it is a welcoming change because we can finally go outside and resume our daily lives.
But how about our pets? Are they going to be happy with such a change? That, my dear pet parent, is a different story.
If our pets could only talk, they would unanimously say that the quarantine has been one of the best times of their lives. Why? Their human is home nearly all of the time. They could play with them day and night. They could interrupt their Zoom meetings whenever they please. There has been no shortage of treats and attention since their owner’s been nearby.
Our pets have settled blissfully with this new routine. However, once we adjust to venturing out and normal daily lives, it may add stress to our furry companions.
What are the effects of the new normal on our pets?
Dogs and cats love structure and predictability. Everything is on schedule, like when they will eat and drink, go to the toilet, go for a walk, and sleep. What more if they've settled comfortably having you around while doing these activities?
The moment the new normal kicks in, it will mess up our pets’ routine for sure. First, they will get confused about why their humans are out of the house. Then, they will start getting anxious and upset over the sudden separation. Later on, it could be the source of their stress and tension, especially when left home alone for hours.
Dog trainer and behaviorist Tanya Patel discussed this during her interview with The Free Press Journal. "From your pet's point of view, they will suddenly be left alone at home for long hours after all that wonderful time spent together. Some dogs might react to this lack of stimulation in the house with destructive behavior like chewing things around the house out of boredom. Others might seem anxious, and you may see some unusual peeing around the house. You should get your dog used to being left alone beforehand to soften the blow."
Cats may experience similar reactions because they can also become dependent and overly attached to their owner over time. Yup, they can also suffer from separation anxiety. How do our feline friends retaliate? According to PetMD, they tend to urinate outside their litter box, yowl excessively, or destroy things.
Based on Patel's suggestion above, it would be best to ease your pet into transitioning to the new normal.
How to prepare your pets for the new normal?
If you don't want to get home to half-eaten shoes or chewed sofa covers, you better do the following:
Establish a schedule
Perhaps during the quarantine, you have been more hands-on in caring for your pet. You are always beside them when they are eating or sleeping. You have the luxury of time to play with them. Sadly, this kind of pampering must stop before you get back to work or school.
Restart their pre-pandemic routine where they do everything by themselves. Don't interfere and avoid giving pets extra TLC to help them return to their predictable lives. Retrain them if needed so they can get used to being alone again.
Let them sleep
Do you know what your fur babies do when you're away? They sleep A LOT! Dogs snooze for an average of 10-12 hours a day. In contrast, cats sleep more, about 12-20 hours.
Ensure that your furry companion gets enough sleep to keep their normal activity levels in check by the time you return to your old routine. Little by little, try to spend less time with them to accommodate this change.
Get them into mental conditioning
Thankfully, dogs and cats are trainable, and so the best time to start teaching them is now. They are observant, too, so if they hear your keys jingling, they know that they are about to be left alone.
An article published in NBC Miami suggests leaving out some cues that your pet will quickly identify with being left alone for an extended period. Like hanging your kid’s uniforms where your fur babies can see them or grabbing a handbag in the presence of your pet. Use this technique to lessen or avoid anxiety triggers.
Set up a quiet space for your pet
"Leave the dog in its safe sleeping space, with a distracting, food-based toy," dog behaviorist Nick Jones recommends in his interview with Friday magazine. It would be best if the space is a separate room for you to mock the scenario when you are heading out of the house.
Ensure that they have a food-based toy to keep them busy and entertained. A food-based toy like a stuffed food puzzle helps them enjoy alone time and, of course, allows them to get some delicious treats.
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