The strict social distancing guidelines currently in place across Australia due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic mean that most of us are being advised to stay at home. If you have a pet, chances are they will welcome the fact that you, their best friend, are now home all day with them. However, there are a range of activities you can do with your pet - to keep both them and you happy during the pandemic.
Firstly it’s important to mention, that if you have to self-isolate or self-quarantine due to experiencing flu-like symptoms or if you have a positive test for COVID-19, it is advisable to minimise contact with pets during this time and maintain good hygiene practices. This includes washing your hands before and after handling your pet. If you are unwell or need to be hospitalised, arrange with family or friends to take care of your pets.
Now for the rest of us who are staying home and following the social distancing guidelines, remember that our pets benefit from interaction and activity to help keep them happy and healthy. Pets benefit from routines, and you will likely already know how much attention or activity your pet needs - some pets need more, others need less, so here’s some tips around what activities you can do with your pet.
Take them for a walk
If you normally take your pet out for a daily walk, you can still do this, however you must follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines. People from the same household can go out together, and you should undertake exercise in compliance with public gathering requirements. Keep 1.5 metres away from other people and their pets, avoid crowds and public gatherings such as at dog parks, and practice good hygiene - including picking up any faeces from your pet.
Games and play
If you have a pet dog, depending on their age, ability and any health conditions, you can consider playing games with them to keep them stimulated. Many dogs enjoy a game of fetch with a ball or toy, and you could also incorporate this into a daily training program to reinforce skills for sit, stay and fetch. There are many reading and video resources available online which can help you with dog training techniques.
Dogs and some cats will often enjoy playing treasure hunt style games, where you can hide treats or kibble around your house (inside or outside depending on your situation), and the pet has to search out the rewards. Other behaviour enrichment activities include the use of food puzzle toys in which you can hide food within for the pet to slowly access, or chew toys.
If you have a piece of string and can attach a small toy or even a scrunched up ball of paper to one end and jiggle it about, cats will often enjoy playing and trying to catch the toy. Similarly, some cats will enjoy chasing a torchlight if you move it around the floor to catch the cat’s attention.
Brushing and grooming
Lastly, don’t forget grooming your pet - both dogs and cats can benefit from a daily brush to remove excess hair and help remove knots or other debris such as grass-seeds or burrs. If your pets are at home with young children, remember to also give your pets a break away from the kids if the pet wants it.
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