People in many countries have spent significantly more time at home, which is particularly beneficial to pets. While pets can provide emotional support and company in isolation, they benefit as well from the increased attention and presence of their owners.
However, life after lockdown needs to be considered too. Global animal welfare organisation Four Paws, says pets that then spend more time alone again must be prepared to return to their usual routine. In this way, their well-being can be guaranteed even in times of renewed change.
For dogs, big changes are often a special challenge: Through the time spent together, they develop close relationships with their owners. Things become critical when something changes during this time and the dog has to do without the attention of its owner in everyday life, even if it is only by the hour.
“In order to get pets used to a normal routine again, it is important to gradually leave the house for a longer period and show them that their owners will always return home. With insecure dogs that have previously had to leave supposedly safe homes or have lost an important person, even a temporary separation can lead to behavioural problems,” says Sarah Ross, Companion Animal Expert at Four Paws.
“With the right training, fear of separation that often manifests itself through destructive behaviour like damaging furniture, barking and yelping until the owner returns, or depression as a result of loneliness, can be prevented.”
Cats seem to cope more easily with such situations and generally do not show the same behavioural problems as dogs. “Although many cats appreciate the attention and closeness of their family, most are independent and also structure their days themselves. It’s easier to prepare them for being alone again,” adds Ross. Nevertheless, cats can also benefit from a few exercise sessions.
Owners must ensure that their pets continue to feel safe even when the time of constant attention has ended and the world returns to normality. As a pet owner, one can contribute a lot by teaching the pet how to deal with being alone and how to enjoy it.
“For example, feeding games keep the animals occupied longer and distract them from the absence of their owners. If an animal demands excessive attention, it’s fine to ignore it to a healthy degree and not give in to every request. Pets should also be given breaks and should be respected if they withdraw of their own accord,” says Ross.
Text: Patricia E Tan