Why Your Pet Has Been Acting Up Since the Coronavirus Outbreak, According to a Vet
Plus, learn how you can help them deal with their anxieties.
For many people around the world, life is drastically different right now because of COVID-19. However, people aren't the only ones who have been affected by the disrupted routines and social distancing brought on by the pandemic—pets are, too. "Animals do really like to have routines," says Jamie Richardson, DVM, chief of staff for Small Door Veterinary in New York City. "With this change, with our day-to-day anxieties, all that translates down to our pets." That's why your dog or cat may be behaving unusually, such as barking or meowing more often than normal, overgrooming their fur, or urinating in inappropriate places (known as displacement behaviors or displacement activities), adds Richardson.
So, what can you do when your dog is ripping up couch cushions, or your cat is tearing up the carpet? "Try to keep them as much on a normal schedule as possible," Richardson says. That means feed them when you usually do, go on daily walks like normal, but try not to add in anything out of the norm. "I tell people that they need to spend time away from their pets," Richardson adds. "Don't make every walk about going out with your dog. Make sure you leave the house sometimes without your pet."
If you're working from home, try designating work times where you're completely separated from your animal. "My husband actually shuts himself in the office and doesn't let the pets in there, so it's almost like he has left for work," Richardson says. (She owns a labrador named Ralph and a chihuahua named Freddie). "So at 6, he just opens the door. They get excited like he just came home from work." Although a schedule is important, try to vary your routine each day. For example, if your pet has separation anxiety, consider showering at a different time so they don't know when you'll be gone and "go crazy," Richardson says.
Additionally, be sure to give your pet as much love and attention as possible. "Set aside time each day specifically for your pet, whether it's physical or mental exercise," Richardson says. This could be anything, including playing with them in your house or backyard or even teaching them a new trick. Richardson also likes toys that double as brain games. For pups, she recommends a puzzle bowl, ($8.60, Chewy.com). Cats, on the other hand, love Doc. & Phoebe's Cat Co.'s indoor hunting feeder (19.99, Chewy.com), she says.
Of course, it's also important to take care of yourself. "Try to look after your own mental health, too," Richardson adds. "Dogs and cats have intuitive behavior. They know when we are stressed. They know when we are upset. They know something is wrong. That can cause them anxiety, too."