Improving the well-being of pets during quarantine

By: Makayla Naime and Allison Stockham

COVID-19 has been a big threat for a while now, and pets are one way people are feeling less lonely despite the long period of isolation, which begs the question: are pets being affected by quarantine? 

While abnormal behaviors might arise, there seems to be a very low risk of pets spreading or catching COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regardless, pets should be treated with the same care and respect as the rest of the family to lower the chances of them getting COVID-19. For instance, don’t take them around other people or pets too often. If someone starts to experience symptoms, it is best to keep the four-legged friends away from them. Nonetheless, time should still be spent with them, like taking a walk or giving them a toy that requires thinking, to help lower any stress and anxiety they might have. 

Andrew James’ cat named Mitz Taco, enjoys going outside and enjoying the fresh air. (Andrew James/Ethic News)

Grace Wilson, a senior at Citrus Valley High School, answered if she had noticed any behavioral changes in her pets and what they were. She said, “Yes! Both of my parents have been working from home so they all get a lot of attention.” Her pets, especially her six month teacup pig Jimmy Dean, have been whining and going wild around the house. They are starting to forget basic rules and misbehaving around people they wouldn’t have before quarantine. “Jimmy behaves like a toddler, and if he doesn’t get enough attention, he cries. My pets are attention hungry, that’s all they care about, especially if it’s from my mom, she is the favorite.” 

Dogs are a man’s best friend, and although staying home is suggested, it doesn’t stop dogs from being affected by quarantine too. According to Dr. Emily Levine, a board-certified veterinary behaviourist, co-owner of Instinct Englewood and owner of the Animal Behaviour Clinic of NJ, “the differences in the behaviour of pets is expected — as animals react to change just like humans do.” Many pet owners have noticed positive and negative changes in their dogs throughout quarantine, such as being less aggressive or barking more frequently.

Like humans, some dogs like lots of attention while others prefer to have their space. Since owners are able to give their pets more affection than normal, dogs who act out-of-bounds and crave attention have stopped their aggression. If “that aggression was coming from a place of ‘I want to spend more time with mum and dad and other dogs don’t come near them,’ now that their humans are home much more, that time with the parents isn’t as rare and coveted,” says Levine.

Samantha Fujiwara, a freshman at Citrus Valley, said, “ I’ve noticed that sometimes my cat doesn’t like that we are home all the time. My dogs love having us home all the time and get mad when we leave. Both my cat and dogs love going on walks, and we have been taking them outside more now, but whenever we even get close to the door or their leash, they get overly excited.” Her pets are loving all the interaction and time they get to spend at home and on walks with their family. However, whenever anyone leaves, her pets don’t let it pass by since it isn’t as normal anymore. They have adapted to seeing everyone home all the time and no one “seemed as excited when we got home from when we left because we are already home all the time.” 

On the other hand, dogs that like space might build up anxiety and anger from any extra noise and attentiveness towards them. With all of this change, dogs can feel overwhelmed or frustrated. “We want to make sure the dog has a place in the home that they can choose to go to, and it’s their own spot where nobody can bother them,” as stated by Levine. Making sure that attention is being cut down will help dogs to feel more comfortable and relaxed at home even though most owners are at home all the time. 

Another positive way quarantine has affected dogs is by allowing owners and pets to get even closer than ever before. “With owners working at home, the relationship and dynamic can certainly change. Perhaps there were more walks, more cuddles, and more overall attention,” says Zenithson Ng, a professor of animal cynical sciences at the University of Tennessee. This extra time spent gives people the opportunity to strengthen the bond between their pets and themselves.

A negative obstacle that dog owners are facing is trying to make sure that dogs are using their brains and getting enough exercise, as dogs are becoming more antsy and bored without practice. With varying levels of how comfortable people feel about going outside, walks might not be as common as they used to be. A way to solve this issue is teaching them new tricks and using stimulating toys. According to Levine, “their owners should try to give them exercise,” and “really tire them out by making them think and learn and use their brain.” Learning new skills allows dogs to get mental and physical work done without having to leave the house. 

Cooper who is a Boston Terrier taking a snooze while on his daily neighborhood watch shift. (Noah Amaro/Ethic News)

The environment within homes can change everyone’s attitudes and feelings, including those of dogs. “Companion animals can also absorb stress and negative energy from their owners. People who are overwhelmed with the overall trauma from the pandemic, from job loss to worries over getting sick, can pass on that energy to their pets,” says Dr. Christopher Yach, a veterinarian at West Flamingo Animal Hospital. Dogs have a difficult time handling stress, and can get upset with the smallest issues. Handling more stress makes it tougher for their bodies to keep up with regular functions, and cause them to be more susceptible to illness. Trying to keep stress levels lower at home or having owners separate from their furry friends when feeling extremely stressed, anxious or overwhelmed will be beneficial to the household entirely.  

In general, your pets spending more time with you isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much time around them, especially when stressed, can hurt them. “Your pet knows when you’re stressed, when you’re sick, when you’re happy, when you’re healthy, better than your spouse does,” said Dr. Christopher Yach of West Flamingo Animal Hospital. “So when that particular person is experiencing low-level or high-level stress, it does affect the pets.”

Quarantine is affecting everyone out there, including the furry or not so furry members of the family, and just like their owners, they can get stressed out or sick of being at home all the time. When stressed, try taking a walk or spending quality time with pets. It will likely make them happy and help lower their owner’s stress levels too.

Shadow, a playful newborn lamb, is enjoying her time outside with Maggie Snavely, a Junior at Citrus Valley. (Maggie Snavely/Ethic News)

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