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COVID-19 and our pets

Updated: Oct 3

Just a quickie, Gentle Readers, but we need to talk about the heffalump in the room...and the cats, dogs, birds, lizards, rabbits, etc. Basically today is about the fact that our pets are not necessarily used to us being around aaaaaaaaallllllllll the time, the way we currently are with coronavirus restrictions, lockdowns, and self-isolation realities. And some of us may not be sure about protocols and limits around pets with the novel coronavirus besieging us, so we will take a few moments to focus on the furkids.


This post is 100% Cully Approved.
Dogs will, overall, be quite chill about owners being home, but cats may become slightly stressed. This is primarily because we have co-evolved with dogs for so many years, and we have a particular attachment process. Cats on the other hand like their space. Think of it this way: dogs have owners, cats have personal staff...

A few days ago a quite useful and informative interactive chat was held by Petbarn and Greencross Vets on Facebook. Members of the public wrote in questions which were answered online by two vets, the video runs for just over a half hour, and a good deal of calm, sensible information was offered. Basically, our pets are fine, there is no evidence that pets carry COVID-19 or can transmit it to humans - even though one dog was reported to have died of the virus in another country we do not have evidence and data that this is a reality. While there are coronaviruses that dogs and cats may have, they are species-specific; so they cannot transmit the virus to us. So there is a good deal of good news about being in lockdown or self-isolation if we have pets!


Our pets are incredibly beneficial for our mental and physical health - having a pet lowers blood pressure, raises our immune system, and supports our sense of wellbeing among other positives. Given that there are numerous benefits, and that pets are not carriers of the COVID-19 virus, it is of paramount importance to remember that pets do NOT need to be abandoned (why would you do that anyway??!) or shunted outside the home. Unless you are actively unwell, in which case you do need to isolate by yourself if you live with others - you don't want the pet needing to come in and out of your room/area and have the door being opened and closed more than absolutely necessary. If you live alone and are self-isolating because you have tested positive then there are no restrictions between you and your pet. However, don't give into the temptation to feed your dog excessive amounts of treats because you are home a lot. Most dogs are not great at self-limiting on food, and you don't want to create a new expectation of treats on demand - so rather than feeding try to concentrate on games, quiet time together and lots of pats.

One important thing to remember right now is not to pat other people's dogs or to let other people pat yours. This is not about fur-to-skin contagion, but rather a reminder that physical distance matters! Maintain a wide berth between yourself and other pet owners - even if the dogs want to play the humans need to stay several meters apart from each other. It is hard, as dog walking is often a social element, but we need to be safe.
Cully was rescued from our local RSPCA when he was 8 weeks old. You can rescue or apply to foster with several organisations. #AdoptDontShop

Pets are quite popular on socials at the moment due to working from home and isolation protocols, so much so that right now the RSPCA and other rescue organisations are actively asking for pet fostering during the COVID-19 outbreak as many of us have time at home and can help out animals that are waiting for their forever homes. Most adoption and rescue organisations are seeing some interesting trends: one the one hand there is a surge of adoption and foster interest, on the other agencies are concerned that there will be a spike in pets being surrendered as so much unemployment has happened and people may not be able to afford to feed and keep their pets.


Perhaps a useful and helpful thing to do is to offer your help to pet owners you know nearby. You can pop a piece of paper into the letterbox or by the door with your name and number on it, offering to help walk a dog if the person is in quarantine. Alternatively, you can help out with dog walking for friends and family that live close by. Either way, always carry a couple of bags to clean up after the dog in case you need them. Maintain physical distance - as long as the exchange of the dog and leash takes place at a bit of a physical distance between the humans and you wear disposable gloves when you hold the leash you will be fine. In fact, if there is a jobby to be picked up you can slip off the gloves when you have returned the dog to it's owner and handed back the leash, and dispose of the gloves inside the jobby bag. No potential contaminants will be loose inside the garbage bag, so it makes good sense.

The old saying "Dogs have owners, cats have personal staff" is a good maxim to remember with cats. Give them space. And be prepared for your online meeting to stop completely if your cat enters the room - everybody will want to meet kitteh!

Cats may not respond the same way that dogs do to you being at home now though... Many cats quite like their space, and most animals really appreciate routine, so some cats may become a bit stressed when the humans are suddenly around all the time, interrupting their naps and house patrols. Give your cat some space, allow them to come to you when they are ready, and don't fall into the trap of feeding them round the clock by way of 'making up' for the change. I have some good friends with four cats - two are delighted that dad is working from home, while two are expressing their displeasure by hiding and being finicky about food. Be patient and kind, your cats will adapt to the new normal in a short time.


If you have a bird that is quite bonded to you then it will probably be over the moon with joy that you are around all the time - birds who are pair-bonded with a human often struggle with the separation required for an out of home job. Relax together and don't buy into your feathered friend's insistence that they are starving. Limit food for birds as you would for any other pet. Regular feeding and treat times are fine.


Another way to bond with isolation and animals is to share the funny antics, facial expressions, and articles abounding on social media platforms right now. A few can be found here, here, celebrities doing their bit here, and here. I truly hope you are soaking up all the love your pet can offer - be it a furred, scaled, or feathered family member.


Now go wash your hands.


P.S.: If you would like to talk about advance planning for your pets - this is an ideal time to sort out your advance planning, after all - please email me at info@gdep.com.au for an appointment. Alternatively, if you are struggling with isolation or stress around COVID_19 please email me if you would like a psychotherapy appointment to learn some stress-reduction techniques and to have a compassionate person to talk to. I am here for you, and you are not alone. Let's talk.

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