Having a pet makes life easier during the coronavirus lockdown, but doctors say some animals could react differently to all the attention. Credit: RicaMak Modelling Co.

Never, in the history of modern mankind, have pets been so important in our lives.

Frankly, I can’t even comprehend a lengthy lockdown, without some kind of pet for companionship — either a dog, cat, fish or even a snake! To each his own as we struggle to flatten the Covid-19 curve.

It’s no surprise then, that interest is growing – the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) told CNA Lifestyle it’s seen a “tenfold increase” in foster applications during this time as people look to pets for companionship.

But it’s not just people who get to benefit from having cats and dogs around at home – our now-constant presence are a win-win situation for most of the latter, too.

“We can imagine that many pets are very happy that their human companions are spending so much time with them at the moment,” said Dr. Jaipal Singh Gill, SPCA’s executive director.

However, not every pet takes to having us at home all the time in the same way.

For every dog such as Rolo – who went viral for spraining his poor tail after excessive happy wagging because his parents were home all the time – there are some that might actually be less than pleased about the situation, Channel News Asia reported.

“Some cats may not be as enthusiastic about having their owners around all the time, as they are quite used to being left to their own for the most part of the day,” reminded Dr. Camellia Leong, a veterinarian from Vetpal.

“It depends on the temperament of the cat and the relationship between the cat and the owner or family members.”

Dr. Leong also recounted listening to a webinar by a feline specialist who said that she had been seeing more cats coming into her clinic for conditions usually associated with stressful situations, such as urinary problems, Channel News Asia reported.

So what should pet owners be doing to make the current situation a mutually beneficial one for all?

On a practical note, Dr. Gill suggested that owners take the time to learn more about positive training methods and pet care, such as grooming and dental cleaning. There are also online videos on how to make pet toys and other accessories, which furkids might appreciate, Channel News Asia reported.

Dr. Leong added that owners should also look out for certain aspects in their pets’ behaviour.

“Now would be a good time to pay closer attention to any early signs of potential issues, such as their appetite, any weight loss, changes to their drinking or urinating patterns,” she said. “If you notice any abnormal behaviours as well, see whether it’s a one-off or whether it is persistent.”

As for cats — which, unlike dogs, can sometimes be more fickle — it might be good to give them some space, said Dr. Leong.

She explained: “Keep in mind their usually empty and quiet house has suddenly been constantly filled with people, noise and movement and this can be stressful for cats, so ensure they have a quiet area they can retreat to and try not to overwhelm them with love and affection all day.”

She also added that with reports coming out that Covid-19 transmission from human to animal is possible, it is important that everyone in the household observes good hygiene practices when handling their pet, especially if you’ve been outside exercising or doing your grocery runs.

“Wash your hands before and after handling them, avoid too much cuddling or allowing them to lick or kiss your face, especially if you are unwell yourself,” she said.

Other than that, life for the most part should continue as usual, and going out for walks with your dog for some fresh air and exercise is still beneficial, Channel News Asia reported.

Still, Dr. Leong reminded owners to remember to wear masks when doing so, and also brought up the fact that owners should not be putting masks on their dogs as it could be more harmful than useful.

And social distancing applies to dogs too, according to Dr. Leong.

“Keep a two-metre distance apart from other people and dogs, do not gather together to let them play with each other,” she said. “Wash your hands, and wipe down/wash your pet’s paws after they have been out on walks.”

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