Pets and the pandemic: how covid-19 has altered pet-keeping

Covid-19, the pandemic, though not the plague, is certainly biblical in proportion. It is so momentous, that it feels like it’s been prophesied about for ages; so  widespread that it has changed earthly life forever. Humans, with their rational minds and access to information feel lost, so what might be the state of their pets? When you go through something this huge, you’re bound to see the future differently including pet-keeping. These are some tips and points to consider as both of you adjust to the new normal.

   Desperate times, desperate measures

It’s a testament to how important pets have become to human lives, to see how rules were adjusted or prioritised for pet families. Vets were enlisted as essential services and during the early months of lockdown, one of the reasons  you were allowed to leave your home was to walk your pet. However, just because rules and regulations were in place, doesn’t mean that resources were accessible. Many had to settle with zoom calls with the vet, some had to find substitutes for their local butchers or pet food products within the home, which were not always as nutritious. Make it an everyday habit to check your pet’s vitals and have a first aid kit handy with Savlon, a thermometer, cotton gauze, a wound-healing spray, bandages, antibiotic ointments, antacid, pain-killers, and antidiarrheal medicine.   

Give them some space

Pets kept their quarantined owners company during these difficult times. Pets didn’t notice that there was a pandemic going on – they were just happy they got to spend more time with their parent. This meant more playtime and more treats but also weight-gain. And even though it feels otherwise, the lockdown is also temporary. Once eased, humans will have to go back to work, and put their pets through a major life and routine change which can cause them to have intense separation-anxiety or stress. It might be useful to start setting up boundaries within the house where you both can practice having some alone time.

So much work and no play

I see you troubled pet owners! While for some humans, pets were great company, for others, they were a major distraction from work. But your pooch is seriously bored.  If you’re feeling cooped up and fed up of staying in, it’s possible your pet has developed cabin fever too. Here, your dog would appreciate it if you stashed away some of your furniture and made some room for him to run about. He might also like to play games like hide and seek. Try hiding an orange or some object with a distinctive smell around the house and get him to fetch it for you. This is ideal for when you want to minimise outside time like if you are in a containment zone and cannot step out. 

Potty retraining 

You have no control over what your pup touches and sniffs when you’re trying to walk him outdoors. It’s still advisable to minimise your outdoor time. Unless, you want to give him a bath every time you return home. If you are living with at-risk people and want to be as careful as you can, you might have to potty train your pet to do his business indoors. If they err as they will, you must forgive them. This is still all very new for them.  While travelling with your pet, be careful to maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands after handling your pet and his things. I know it’s tough but try and avoid kissing or cuddling your pet in public places.

What about the others

Bless your kind soul, if it’s the strays that you’re worried about. A lot of pet care companies and NGOs have risen to the task and worked hard to ensure they are fed. Even if you cannot go outside to feed the poor souls, you can contribute to the agencies who can and do such as Friendicos, Voices for India’s Voiceless Animals, The Animal Welfare Board or any of the groups in your locality you know and trust. This is also the best ever time to adopt pets –with so many starving and abandoned, they need you just as much as you need them. 

Hold on and don’t give up. Only in the most urgent and sad situations is it reasonable to give up a pet. A pet is for life and not just for the lockdown.

Excerpted from the Wise Owl