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Self-Isolation? Don’t Forget the Furries!

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What unprecedented and uncertain times we’re in. I’m speaking from the viewpoint in the the UK but COVID-19, aka the coronavirus, is now sweeping the world.  Here in the UK, the situation changes daily as the number cases (and very sadly, fatalities) increases, it is ever-evolving.  By the time you read this, who knows what measures will be in place. Currently we have school closures and closures of businesses that provide food, hospitality and entertainment.  There are advisories on social gatherings and social distancing and possibly soon to come, enforcement of the former.

It has been advised that those in vulnerable groups self-isolate and, of course, those presenting with symptoms, must do so. How, then, during this potentially lengthy time frame, can we enhance our pets’ well-being?

This time is precious – use it!
If you’re working from home or self-isolating, you and your pet(s) will be spending a lot of time together, probably more so than when you were working or otherwise. Perhaps you also used the services of a doggy daycare or a dog walker who may not currently be available.  Right now, then, this can be a time to enjoy more of that 1 to 1 relationship, learn more about your dog, what makes her tick, what does she like or not like, what is she afraid of, how does she learn, what funny little things does she do, maybe what issues does she have that need working on, etc.  Many of us spend our time rushing from one point to the next and it’s easy to overlook the small stuff. Sometimes, too, if you employ the services of a pet care professional, they can tell you what your dog does and how she behaves, but you yourself may not necessarily see ‘the everyday’.  And I’m sure we can all agree that our beloved pets don’t live for nearly long enough and we should enjoy every day as best we can.

What does your pet need?
Is there anything your pet actually needs?  Take the time to assess her general health and well-being.  This will obviously be species-specific, but take the time to assess her body condition. Does she need a reduction in food (or an increase) instead of you constantly diving in for the same amount as a matter of routine?  Check her ears and eyes. Maybe your pet has been scratching, so have a look and see if you can see what’s going on. Assess her grooming needs, especially in long-haired breeds. What about her nails, skin, fur or any other obvious visible signs or symptoms that something’s not quite right, such as if her gait has changed or she is having any difficulties with movement?

Are you doing the very best for your pet?
It’s easy to get stuck in a routine…same old food…same old walks..same old leash/collar combo, parasite control regime, etc. But is it all working for you and her as well as it could be?  Take the time to review how good (or bad) the food is that you’re offering and consider whether a change might be good. Staying with the ‘same old’ is easy but it doesn’t always mean its the best for your pet.  A change of cat litter tray size or location, a softer dog bed, or a larger aquarium with better filtration may better suit your pet’s needs and enhance their well-being. There’s always something that we can do within our means to better our pet’s lives, in my opinion.

Get inventive
There are so many resources online regarding games you can play with your pets to increase their mental stimulation.  This doesn’t just apply to dogs. Cats, birds and small furries like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters etc. can all be actively involved.  Getting the kids involved here is a great idea too. Making or finding the enrichment sources to begin with (you don’t always have to spend money) and then finding what to fill them with or following recipes can all be fun.  And watching your pet working out how to solve puzzles is always great fun.

Be hands on
Make some toys from what you’ve already got at home.  Now, we might have one or two toilet rolls hanging around! Stuff these in a larger box and fill them with treats and let your pet rummage around to find them and get the treats out. Let smaller pets roll one around that has treats inside or just shred them – obviously, watch that they don’t ingest anything.  Plastic bottles with their tops removed can be great also and make good food dispensers for those of us with pet birds. Let the birds roll them along the ground and peck at them.   If you’re extra handy, try tufting a snuffle mat or making tug toys from things such as knotted/plaited tea towels.  There is plenty you can do once you start getting creative.

Top up the training
Don’t let your training regress! Use any available space you have to sharpen up your training. Just 5 minutes here and there can work wonders.  Make a note, too, of what you really want to work on once all this is over – or make a plan now and try and work on your goals.

Make your outside space more pet-exciting
Take the time to enrich your outdoor space, even if it’s only a small space.  Maybe include some water, bubble blowers or a sandpit for dogs, dust bath areas and mirrors for birds, extra scratch posts and enclosed climbing areas for cats – especially if they are indoor only cats. Again, be inventive.

None of us know how long we will be subject to the extra measures currently in place but we must not forget our pets in all of this. There are plenty of little things we can do that don’t have to cost anything and will make a great difference to them in terms of their well-being and enrichment. And in turn, watching their enjoyment and happiness can help boost our own. In this current climate especially, that’s no bad thing.

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