Although the lockdown has been a worrying and stressful time for many, others have been surprised at how close it has brought them to family, friends and, not least, their own pets.
Before the lockdown, your pet probably enjoyed a fairly stable routine. If you work, there’s a good chance it was left alone for a significant part of the day or night. It wouldn’t see much of the children during the daytime either, and when family members were home, at weekends or evenings, there was probably plenty of outdoor activity.
That’s all changed now, and pets, just like the rest of us, are spending day after day cooped up with their owners. Dogs enjoy the odd short walk and that’s it. The old routine has been shattered.
Animals don’t necessarily enjoy routines – they can get bored just as easily as humans – but just like many humans they also feel safer when things occur with reliable regularity. A cat or dog that is used to a quiet mid-morning nap, a long period of time with no one eating and the regular return of a beloved human may initially find a permanent presence of adults confusing and irritating.
When kids are at home all day, matters can be even more complicated and, although dog-walking is supposed to be strictly limited, more than a few hounds have been used as an excuse to get out and about.
But, above and beyond all this is the simple fact that dogs and cats are social animals. We all know this about dogs, but often it’s only cat owners who recognise that cats are every bit as socially sophisticated. Rather than aloof, stand-offish animals, they are more likely to be genuinely affectionate and fun-loving.
Adults who live alone often find companionship with a dog or cat, but during the lockdown, many more of us, of all ages, forced to spend all day behind closed doors, are discovering the fulfilment and joy that this close relationship can provide.
It’s scientifically proven, too. At a time like this, the simple fact of company makes us feel safer, as if we’re not alone in the world. The feeling of responsibility towards our companion gives us a reason to get up in the morning and brings pleasure throughout the day.
Dog trainer David Cabrerizo says “The lockdown is giving many people the opportunity to discover what it’s like to live with a dog, and that is something very different from having a dog.” American studies have shown that pet owners who have a healthy, rewarding and non-abusive relationship with their animals tend to be more likely to have similar human relationships. They will also enjoy better mental health and lower stress levels.
Pets are just like people in one, simple respect – the better you know them the more you love them. Sure, a family pet can occasionally be annoying and frustrating, too, but that just makes them more like members of the family.
So why not take the opportunity of lockdown to really get to know your pet. Spend some quality time with it and try and learn what really makes it tick. Cabrerizo says “we have a chance to really live with our dog, and its a wonderful learning experience. You don’t have to always be doing things with a dog to enjoy quality time – all you have to do is be together…”
Pets and Coronavirus
When the first reports that cats and dogs could contract COVID-19 came through, it was worrying. Many simply denied the facts, while others simply ignored them.
But the research is pretty conclusive – both dogs and cats can catch the virus. What’s not so certain is whether they can pass it on to each other, and what is even more certain is that it’s almost impossible for them to give it to you.
Most pets that have tested positive belong to owners who tested positive. Tests have shown that infected cats can pass it on to other cats, but there is no evidence at all of a cat ever giving it to humans.
Dogs can also catch it, but are much less likely to pass it on to other dogs, and it seems virtually impossible that a human could be infected by a dog.
If you or anyone in your home contracts COVID-19, you are advised to isolate pets, for their own sake as much as anything.