During the lockdown many of our usual day to day activities, including travel (even to and from work) and socialising are no longer possible, so making sure we keep ourselves and our pets active and stimulated is more of a challenge. And just like you, your dog in particular may need some help burning off excess energy and staving off boredom.
Here are some ways you can make sure that your pets are well provided for and that you keep your cat or dog happy while you are stuck indoors.
Your Pet's Diet and Nutrition
Make sure you prepare ahead, particularly if you are self isolating. You may have people who can go shopping for you but with things changing on a daily basis it’s good to think ahead and have some fallback options. You might think about planning in a grocery delivery in case friends or neighbours are no longer able to drop by with shopping. Unless you are home preparing raw meals from fresh ingredients, much pet food is either frozen, ambient or dried and so you could prepare for several weeks ahead at least.
If you are self-isolating it's likely that your pet’s activity levels are going to be reduced and this is something to be aware of when feeding. You may need to adjust the amount of food they are getting to avoid weight gain. You may also find that with reduced activity your dog is more prone to constipation. If you are raw feeding you could consider reducing the amount of bone in your dog’s diet, but if you are at all concerned about constipation it’s worth discussing with your vet for some advice.
Is Your Pet Getting Enough Exercise?
Dogs especially will need to try and get their usual level of exercise. If you have more than one adult in your house consider taking your outings separately so your dog gets more than one walk in a day. You could also try running with your dog if they are usually active and mobile..
If you have a treadmill at home that can be a great way to get some extra walks in (and if you are self isolating a good replacement for the traditional walkies!). And of course make the most of any garden space you have as well, making sure your dog has regular access for fresh air and a run around. You could create a mini course for them to navigate using simple garden objects or even cushions in the lounge, especially when it comes to active dogs who are used to agility work for example.
Outdoor cats should be allowed to come and go as usual, but as with all pets make sure you follow the usual hygiene advice, washing your hands after handling or feeding your pet. There is no evidence as yet to suggest that COVID-19 can make animals ill, but if you are at all worried about your pet’s health you should phone your vet.
Active Body, Active Mind
Being stuck in the house is likely to be testing at times, for you and for your pets. Here are some things you could try:
Memory games – try setting out three bowls and let your dog sniff out which one is hiding the treat or try using a Kong or food puzzle at mealtimes so they have to work a little to get to their food. If you do set up some food games for your dog make sure you use part of their existing daily diet rather than giving lots of extra treats which could lead to overfeeding.
Sniff work – hide treats around the house and let your pooch smell them out to encourage natural foraging behaviours.
Teach her a new trick – this is great stimulation for any dog.
Playing – both cats and dogs love to play – try a tug of war or a simple game of fetch with your dog or get your cat chasing a toy or a feather on a piece of string and making the most of his hunting instincts.
Spotify have introduced a new app featuring relaxing sounds and music for dogs called “My Dog’s Favourite Podcast” – why not see what your dog thinks?
Toileting for Your Pet
Your dog will have to be let out into the garden or just outside your house to toilet but don’t forget to maintain social distancing with anyone who may be around and minimise the time they are outside. Indoor cats should be kept inside and continue to use the litter tray as normal. If you have an outdoor cat they can be let outside when needed but you should minimise the level of contact you have with them.
Keeping Yourself and Others Safe
When you are out of the house remember to stick to the hygiene and social distancing measures that are in place. Stay away from other people’s pets as well as the owners.
More Advice on Looking After Your Pets
Here's a useful infographic from the CFSG with some reminders and tips on looking after your pets during the restrictions. Don’t forget that the official guidance is changing, so make sure you also keep up to date with the latest government advice.