Avoid Post-Lockdown-Stress for your animal
Have you been at home more or even full time during the lockdown? Then your cat and dog undoubtedly enjoyed extra company, quality time and play time with you.
But of course, your animals do not know the term "lockdown" and do not realize that the extra attention is or was only temporary. And why should they? They just enjoyed it to the fullest.
But this also means that for many of them it will be a "shock" if you go back to work and/or the children are back to school. In many cases it is not that far yet, but it is coming.
If an animal is used to a certain amount of “company, quality time and play time” and that time is increased during a period of time, it becomes their new normal. If that amount suddenly drops back to "the old normal", this will often cause stress. We also see this effect, for example, after their owner's pregnancy. Before giving birth, the woman stayed at home for several weeks and had a lot of time for the furry friend of the house. But once the baby is born, almost all of the time goes to the baby and that animal falls a into a black hole, often causing behavioral problems due to the stress caused by that.
This stress can manifest itself in various ways.
Every animal is unique, but in cats you will often see this in the form of excessive vocalizing or excessive attention seeking, destructive or irritated behavior. Some may really cry for help by relieving outside the litterbox.
In dogs this will, for example, manifest itself in restless behavior, demanding attention or crying or being destructive while staying home alone (as may have done as a puppy).
Of course you want to avoid this, because lockdown or not, your animal must feel happy.
How do you avoid that? By gradually getting your animal used to "normal" again. And also take a moment to consider how normal the situation before the lockdown was or not for your animal.
I just clarify that ...
Think about what the day for your animal looked like before the lockdown.
Was there enough playtime with your cat? Especially with indoor cats you have to play activity games several times per day to satisfy their hunting instinct and it is nice if you provide the necessary adventures for them while you are out, so that they also have something to discover and investigate when you are not at home.
Most dogs only need three short functional walks a day to do their needs, but ... playtime with other dogs, having adventures in the forest or park, thinking games such as brain gymnastics, ... are also important for their well-being.
During the lockdown, did your relationship with your cat or dog become (even) better or more intense than before? Or do you notice that your animal is calmer or more relaxed than before the lockdown? Or if you have several animals: did their relationship improve? Then that is a clear signal that before the lockdown there was to little quality time in their daily life. Take this into account when you determine the "new normal" for them.
So decide carefully what the "new normal" shall be for them and draw up a plan to systematically switch from the ‘lockdown pet-time’ to that "new normal".
Make that transition gradually, so spread over several weeks. Not easy? Maybe not, but with a tight schedule for yourself or by involving family members for activity games or friendly neighbors who also want to take an extra walk with your dog, you will certainly succeed!
Your animal thanks you in advance for making the transition from lockdown to “(new) normal" as stress-free as possible.
Karin Weuts, Behavioral Therapist for Cats