Over the last month the world has entered a collective hibernation. People are going without haircuts, cutting grocery store visits down to once a week, ordering food to go, and entertainment of all types has been indefinitely postponed. While we humans are adjusting to having our social lives wrecked, our dogs are celebrating our increased presence in their lives. Cats give the quarantine mixed reviews. While it’s popular among some cats, half of the feline population misses uninterrupted day naps.
Interestingly, Highland Pet Hospital has seen a huge increase of new puppy and new kitten visits, as well as recent shelter adoptions of older dogs and cats. While we would normally see an increase in new pets at the start of spring and summer, the influx of new pets we are seeing right now is seeming to be higher than usual at this point in the year. It’s a good time to add a pet, especially a young one. After all, increased time at home means more time for training, more time for bonding, and a good opportunity for companionship when human contact is very limited.
But here’s the thing:
There is a life after COVID-19. The quarantine will end, and all of our Covidogs and Coronocats will have to experience a major life change when the world starts back up. While I’m mostly focusing on new additions to the family, the reality is ALL dogs and cats are going to experience an adjustment back to normal life once we all go back to our usual bustling lives! Here are a few thoughts I’ve been having on preparing our pets for life after COVID-19.
Keep up with vaccines—
Veterinarians across the country are sticking to “essential” veterinary care, which makes appointments harder to schedule, and makes it very likely that there will be delays in vaccine coverage. We are trying to prioritize rabies for all pets, and the distemper combination for puppies who have not yet had the vaccine. Parvo virus is VERY real, and a VERY big threat. Avoid exposing an unvaccinated puppy to other dogs until those vaccines are updated! If you have a new puppy or kitten, call and make an appointment! We will do our absolute best to see your pet, while trying to keep all the people safe as well. Similarly, vaccines like bordetella (kennel cough) that are recommended for grooming, day care, and boarding may lapse as we are not considering them essential right now. Remember to get these vaccines updated before your dogs make their way to daycare!
Clarify any questions or concerns you have for your veterinarian-–
what we are calling “curbside medicine” results in significantly decreased face to face communication with your veterinarian. As a new puppy or kitten owner, you may have many questions. An unfortunately byproduct of being asked to wait outside during your pet’s examination is that you may have questions that you forget to ask, or your vet forgets to comment on! We feel just as sad at the decreased contact as you do, and we are more than happy to answer general questions about care for your new puppy or kitten! At Highland we actually have some people who are working from home, with the sole job of responding by email to questions from our clients!
Socialization is a challenge right now-–
Normally, my leading advice to new puppy and kitten owners is to have them meet as many people as you can during those first months. Handling by people during the early months is SO important. Unfortunately, I cannot currently offer that piece of advice. But never fear! I have some alternatives for you!
→→Spend a lot of time handling your pet. Touch paws, ears, and mouths. Handle their toe nails, open their mouths, lift their lips, look in their ears. Work on laying them on their sides, petting them, and rolling them over on their backs. The more, the better! ←←
→→Work on basic obedience training. Having a good handle on basic commands is so good for young animal’s brains, helps them to burn energy, and will allow you to have a good trust with them once they are able to meet new people! ←←
→→For cats, look up some information on the needs of indoor cats for environmental enrichment. I like indoorpet.osu.edu/cats as a resource for information on cat behavior. You can start to implement things like soft paws and scratching posts early on to get ahead of negative behaviors. For extra entertainment, check out Jackson Galaxy’s you tube videos! Jackson Galaxy has some really fun information on cat behavior! He hits some topics a little harder than I generally would, so if you run across something you have questions about, your veterinarian may be able to clarify! ←←
→→If your quarantine crew includes multiple family members, make sure everyone has an equal role in training and handling. Since the number of people your pets can meet outside the home is limited, those who live in the home are even more valuable for socialization! Use discretion with young children, and always supervise the interactions of kids with animals. ←←
Make sure your puppies are crate trained, and your kittens know how to spend time away from you.
⇛I’ve saved the most important for last! ⇚
In a few weeks those who are working from home will go back to work, or will want to have a nice dinner out. Separation anxiety is the behavioral problem we are asked to address more than any other. It is so important that puppies be crate trained, so that they have a safe place to stay when unsupervised. All pets should spend some time being content away from you each day. This allows them to be adjusted to being alone once the house finally empties out. I can’t emphasize the importance of crate training and preparing your puppy to be home alone enough! You will appreciate a puppy who is content and safe in a crate while you are out of the home. You will also appreciate a puppy who knows how to be content in a crate even when you are home! Eventually we will be able to have dinner parties again, and it’s very handy to have a place for the pets to go while you have guests!
We all need a little extra good news, a little more love, and a lot more companionship during this isolating time. I think all of our pets have the potential to benefit greatly from our increased attention! Let’s set them up for success during the time after the quarantine!