‘The topic this week was behavioral issues that just started when the quarantine started. In Utah, we got a double punch with an earthquake that moved up into Idaho the next month. Everything seems to come with a double punch these days.
Everyone is nervous and on edge. The same goes for our pets too, and it will show in behavior changes.
There are more bites, more scratches, than ever before. More animals are going to the shelters. More Sorrow. More depression.
Take back your sanity and that of your pets.
Step #1 – Boundaries
Some animals are having a hay day with us being home all the time. LeeLoo thinks it’s fantastic!
Others, like Cooper Cat, are done with the 24-7 contact. I can relate, just like many others, so it’s time to back up. Your pet needs a safe place they can go, where they know no one will bother them. Forge a place for everyone and enforce the freedom rule.
“If Cooper is on Mommy’s desk, no one touches him.” This is a new rule at our house, on top of the no bothering in the cat tree or under the bed. The earthquake rattled poor Cooper good. He just kept staring at the ceiling with tail puffed. The resulting 1,180 aftershocks didn’t help matters much.
It wouldn’t hurt to make a place for yourself. “If Mommy is hiding in the storage room, leave her alone.” You’d think this was an introvert’s dream, but now we have no alone time. None at all. You want out? We want you out! Just for a moment, of course. We love you. You have to come back. We just need to breathe.
Step #2 – Look into Temporary Anxiety Relief
Thundershirts squeeze your pet like a reassuring hug always and can make a huge difference in their mental state.
Step #3: Counter Conditioning
Every pet has a price.
Give Cooper some Silvervine Catnip, and the boy forgets everything. We use it after his monthly Revolution treatments for nail trims, and anything else we do that is unpleasant. The first time we do something new, it’s all claws and teeth, but catnip right after resets his anxiety so that the next few times, he gets less and less reactive.
Earthquake = silvervine
After twenty or so aftershocks (repetition is key), Cooper doesn’t care about earthquakes anymore.
Step #3: Learn Your Pets Language
Dogs and cats are horrible at saying, “Look, dude, I’m all done playing. Back off before I get angry.” But they are very good at body language.
Ears forward and perky = This looks fun
Ears slightly back = Hey, I’m unsure of what’s going on
Ears flat back = Biting is next! Please back up.
You have the time now. Watch your pet. Know when enough is enough. Stop playing before you become annoying or worse, scary. Not all advances are seen in the same intentions as meant. Getting up in a strange dogs face with the aim to pet and love could be met with teeth, but it’s not because the dog is mean.
Miscommunication is one of the top creators of behavioral issues.
Obedience Training is an excellent way to create a language both you and your pet understand.
True, Covid is removing puppy and other training classes, but search the internet for a moment and start with basic puppy or kitten training. Why? Start small and at the beginning. Train basics. Make sure you both understand the words you are using before moving to the next lesson.
Step #4: Exercise
Come on. You know your stuck. You feel it in your heart. Now imagine your a border collie bread to heard an entire flock of fluffy grazers now forced to stay on the couch all day. Drama is coming.
That energy needs to go somewhere. It can go into eating your shoes, your couch, your doors. In can go into biting, scratching, ornery behavior, or you can find something else to release the inner crazy.
Exercise can stop a lot of behavioral issues.
Find something, anything. Toys abound online. My New Pet is working to critique them for you, so you know where to start, but really, Google is the master. Google can find a way to release the inner beast of any pet. You know your fur friend. Find them something to do at least a few times a day to burn off energy. And, if you don’t know your pet yet, go back to step 3. Watch them. Learn from them.
Cooper’s grumpy time is in the morning. He’s used to having the early hours of the day all to himself. Now we are always home. He swipes at the kids, growls, and hisses when touched in the morning.
Use exercise, counter condition, or boundaries to get them through grumpy time and reward happy time with love.
I find him safe places to hide and make sure the kids leave him alone until later in the day, and day by day he is relaxing and sleeping well and deep.
We just have to get through it.
Pets are fantastic for mental health, but sometimes they need our help and understanding too. It is not a one-way street.
They look to you for everything in life. Don’t give up the big things by missing the small stuff.
Be safe. Be vigilant. Stay home.
Step #5: Routine
We saved the best for last. Routine is comforting. It reminds us that things do keep going on. Whatever schedule you had before the world turned upside down, do your best to keep it.
Shower. Get dressed and ready for the day.
Eat three healthy meals at a set time. Feed your pet their food on a schedule, so they know that no matter how weird things get, food and water will always be there. Litter boxes will always be cleaned. Poop will still be scooped.
Work your shift like you usually would. Get off work when you normally would.
Play with your pet as usual, if not more.
Give yourself and your pet more personal alone time to look inward and find the things you need to survive and progress.
Don’t have a schedule? Make one.
We home school, our kids, work, shop, clean, etc. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and forget important things, which is terrible for your mental health. Schedule the important things first; work, food, exercise. Find what you have to have to be mentally well and do that first. Find what your pet needs to be mentally well and add that in. Then worry about everything else.
If it doesn’t fit on your schedule, make a revolving schedule of crappy things that still need to be done and slot an hour a day to get it done. Preferably early so you don’t have to think about it, or worry about it, all day long.
Do it first. Do it fast. Move on to better things.
Step #5: When All Else Fails, that is what your Veterinarian is for.
We are here. We are crazy and stressed, but we still wake up and face the threat of contagion to see to the health of your fur friend. Call us. Get personal advice. Maybe medication is needed. Maybe there is an underlying health issue that’s making your pets life extra hard. Maybe you need a pet behaviorist.
Call and tell us about it.
We are here.
Be safe. Be well.