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Isolation Advice for Pet Owners

As many of us head in to isolation or begin the new normal of working from home, our Education Officer discusses some of the new challenges we may face as pet owners.

Over the coming days, weeks, and quite possibly months, the way that many of us live and work will drastically change. This will largely be through an increased amount of time indoors – which our pets will undoubtedly be delighted about, but of course bring many new challenges too.

With restrictions on movement in force, our personal and working lives intertwined, and everything else the official COVID-19 guidelines bring, how do we ensure our pets are still receiving the time, care and attention they deserve?

Stretching Those (four) Legs

Though we’re being asked to avoid others and to limit our time outdoors to one exercise break a day, our pets still need to stay active. We can make that one exercise break really count by going an extra lap around the block, but there’s often opportunities for exercise indoors, too.

Using something like a tug toy is great exercise for a dog, and requires little more space than you both already take up. A straight section in the home can make a nice runway for some ‘hallway zoomies’. My home certainly isn’t enormous, but from my living room sofa I can see straight in to the bedroom – tossing a toy from one to the other gives my cat, Misty, a short sprint across the house. While only a few metres long, doing this a few times certainly sees her sleeping a little more soundly afterwards!


Using Their Noggin

Seeing that we won’t be socialising for a few weeks, we may find we have a little extra time on our hands. Why not use it to teach your dog or cat something new? Last year, we shared a simple video teaching a cat how to fist bump, and we’ll have more of these in the coming weeks – a simple Google search will turn up endless options, too!

Teaching commands is not only a great way to stimulate the minds of our pets, but an excellent way to bond with them. And just think – how impressive would it be to end this isolation period with a pet that can nail a handful of commands on cue!


Sensory Enrichment

On a similar vein to using their brain, we can stimulate their other senses too. Different types of feeders – including simple, home-made ones – provide instant gratification for sniffing out treats. Aromatherapy oils or pet-safe plants give an enrapturing scent (or other, like cat grass, a tasty snack). Enclosed gardens provide a new and interesting soundscape. Our Spring to their Senses Appeal shines a light on sensory enrichment, and we shared more about that here: https://edch.org.uk/building-a-sensory-garden/

Proving additional enrichment will leave them feeling more fulfilled throughout the day, and hopefully help with the next point…


Keeping Distractions to a Minimum

Trust us, we understand more than most that pets can be a distraction in the workplace – sometimes a welcome one, sometimes less so (a cat walking on a computer keyboard being the classic example).

Yes, sometimes they may demand a little more attention than we can afford, which is why we need to ensure we make them a priority in our downtime. I find it quite useful to set reminders staggered throughout the day where I can give Misty my full attention for a few minutes – for a brush, hiding treats, or chasing a toy. Other than being beneficial for our pets, taking time away from our desks (or in my case, dining table) is hugely beneficial for ourselves, too!

It’s also worth remembering that many pets are used to having owners out of the house for several hours of the day, and may find the sudden change in routine confusing. This may cause some unwanted behaviours while they adjust, so be sure to positively reward any good behaviour – sitting quietly while you’re on a call certainly justifies a wee treat.


Appreciating Their Company

Surely there’s never been a better time to be a pet owner – the companionship, joy and unconditional love they bring us is needed now more than ever. It’s only right we do all we can to show them some appreciation in return, in the form of our time, attention, affection… and yes, maybe a few treats, too.

Daniel Tipping

Education Officer

Daniel is the Education Officer at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and is responsible for delivering our educational outreach programme to schools, community groups and workplaces. If you’d like to find out more about our education programme or arrange a free workshop for your group, please visit our Advice & Education page.

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