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I adopted a second cat at the height of the pandemic.
Harley is a never-ending source of amusement, and although we are not normally kitten people, she was worth making an exception. I rehomed half my plants because of her. I didn’t know they were toxic and my previous cats did not care about them. I recalibrated the appliance arrangements in my kitchen in another effort to kitten-proof the house. Harley likes to watch me cook and begs for scraps. She likes mushrooms almost as much as I do. She is family.
Despite the alarmist news and anomalies in certain areas, the ASPCA reports that there is not really an uptick in surrendering or rehoming “pandemic pets” as a national trend. There are personnel shortages in shelters and localized issues that are economic in nature, but most pet owners value their new family members and maybe just need a little help as they spend more time away from home. Some shelters even have pet pantries to keep bonded pet families together by supplying pet food and some medical resources.
Here are some tips to help your pet adjust to your post-pandemic work life:
>> Keep a routine that will mimic your return.
Dogs especially thrive on routine, start one now before you are gone for extended periods of time. It should mimic the one you’ll have once your new work schedule is implemented. This includes feeding times and walk times outside. When I was telecommuting, I kept my cats’ feeding time at the same hour and somehow they knew when it was time. When I went back to work, it was not as jarring for them to wait all day for their magical canned food.
>> Associate your leaving with positive things.
Avoid the long, drawn out goodbyes; make a clean break. Start leaving for short periods of time to let your pet get used to not having you home for every waking moment. Treats will associate the act of grabbing the keys with something positive, and play time when you come back will help your dog know that you always return to them.
>> Exercise your pet to relieve stress.
Just like people, pets need exercise to relieve stress. A longer walk for a dog, or a string chase for a cat, can be just the thing to burn off some of the anxiety. My cats like to chase the laser pointer and I always end with it resting on a little treat to give them that kitty closure they need from exercising their hunting instincts.
Watch your pet for anxiety-related behaviors and adjust accordingly. Barking and whining, toileting outside the box, are all distress signals to attend to. Maybe your dog needs their crate again as they had before the pandemic. Maybe your cat needs more exercise or another post to scratch. Sweeten the deal with some catnip.
Your new pet will ride out the pandemic with a little help from their human. If you are on the fence about adopting another pet, know that the shelters have pets and perhaps one is there waiting for you to take them to their forever home. Mindfully consider your own situation and maybe you can open your heart and home again to one more special animal.