Our Pets and Returning to “Normalcy”
The veil is lifting. We, as individuals, a state and a country, are slowly traveling, visiting, entertaining, and we are resuming our previous lives. And so are our pets. Whether your pets quarantined along with you or you adopted a new family member within the last year, perhaps a primer is in order.
We might be excited to host our friends and family again and fill the house with hugs, smiles, and laughter, but our fur-kids might resent the intrusion to what they consider normal. As we are happily planning our activities—finally! —it’s important to consider our pets’ thoughts. Most likely they have become acclimated to their pet parents just hanging around the house, sitting in front of a screen, or simply trying to keep from losing their minds. Regardless, for months, in most cases, it’s just been the pets and their human family. A sudden whirlwind of activity might startle them and could even lead to undesired behaviors or unexpected disasters.
Cats might go into hiding or stop using their litter box. Dogs might try to hide, too, or become obnoxious with guests. Both might try to run away to escape the confusion. Birds might scream and throw things about. To combat these issues, include pet plans along with your emerging-quarantine plans.
If you are hosting people at your house, post predominant signs at each exterior door, warning visitors to be careful of potential escapees. If you have a pet who thinks it should be allowed to roam, and you disagree, plan a safe place to confine the pet temporarily. All pets should have a quiet place to escape to, in a room where they can rest without being bothered. Some might not appreciate your thoughtfulness, but at least you offered it. Others will be more than grateful for a solitary respite. Always ensure you have current ID on your pet in case an escape happens.
If you have an anxious pet, check with your vet beforehand about some calming medication recommendations to give your pet to take the anxious edge off.
Next, if you are traveling, plan in advance what you will do with your pets. If you used a pet sitter or kennel in the past, confirm they are still in business. If you are new to pet-parenting, now is the time to check into your pet care options and find a sitter or kennel or alternative arrangements before you pack that suitcase. Nothing is worse than having your itinerary complete, bags packed, and suddenly realize there is no one to care for your pet!
Also, don’t assume they will be accepted where you are traveling. Call ahead, and verify whether your four-footed baby is welcome, too. Again, imagine arriving at your destination, ready to relax and have a good time, only to learn your pet is not welcome. In the same vein, this pre-travel planning is a fantastic time to visit your vet and get all your pet’s vaccines and medical care brought up to date. And of course you will pack proof of vaccines and health certificates.
If your plans are simply to return to work outside of the home, help prepare your pet days or weeks before you return to work. If your pet is anxious, again, talk to your vet about suggestions to ease their anxiety. If they need mid-day potty breaks, line that up beforehand. Whatever your pets need to accept you leaving once more, plan it out ahead. Do they need new toys, a larger crate, or calming chew “treats”? Make sure they have them.
Let’s focus on cats for a minute. People assume cats are independent and could not really care what their humans or anyone else might do. That may be true of some cats, but many are more sensitive than we sometimes give them credit for. With an influx of people, some cats might delight in all the humans to greet. Others might freak out, and either try to escape, hide in the house for days, or begin howling at strange times or eliminate in bizarre places or use some other means to voice their displeasure or stress.
The same possible behaviors might occur if you suddenly are gone for extended periods and they cannot find you. If they are bonded to you, and you are suddenly missing, they could react in unpleasant ways. At heart, cats are creatures of habit, and don’t like their routines changed much.
So as we are cleared to return or recreate normally, let’s just include our pets in all our plans. They weathered the last year along with us, or joined us along the way, and deserve our consideration. Partner with your veterinarian, pet care providers, and others to fill any gaps and be diligent to keep them safe as you open your home—and theirs—to others. Make the rest of 2021 safe and memorable for you and your pets.
Ryan Jo Summers is a local author and an animal advocate. She has worked in the professional pet care industry for more than 30 years in both business and non-profit sectors. Her home is a haven to a menagerie of rescued animals. For more about Ryan’s writing and her pets visit her website at ryanjosummers.com or her Facebook pages facebook.com/RyanJoSummersAuthor and facebook.com/ryanjosummers
Since 2019, she has shared the “Getting to Know your Local Rescues”, an on-going series highlighting WNC animal rescue groups. Any organization interested in being featured is invited to use the contact tab as .ryanjosummers.com.