How to care for your dog or cat if you are self-isolating
Updated: Apr 14
If you are having to stay at home because you are self-isolating things like food shopping or taking your dog for a walk suddenly become more complicated. Like you, your dog won’t be able to venture further afield than your back garden, so staying active and stimulated is going to be more of a challenge.
Here are some ways you can make sure that your pets are well provided for and that you keep your cat or dog happy (as well as yourself) while you are stuck indoors.
Your pet's diet and nutrition
Make sure you prepare ahead. 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.
Dogs especially will need to try and get their usual level of exercise. If you have family or friends who can take your dog out for you make sure you follow the proper social distancing measures when handing them over.
If you have a treadmill at home that can be a great alternative to walking your dog outside. 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. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 you will need to avoid cuddling or petting your animal until your self-isolation period has ended and you are completely free of symptoms. 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
Whether you are self-isolating as a precaution or you have been diagnosed with COVD-19, 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 and if you are sick, you should minimise your pet’s time outside if possible as well.
What has worked for you?
If you have found something that works for you and your family why not share your ideas by commenting below?
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 Coronavirus crisis. Don’t forget that the official guidance is changing as the situation develops, so make sure you also keep up to date with the latest government advice.