Is your pet cat or dog really happy you’re at home all the time – or stressed out?

Jonathan Chew

CNA – We could all definitely do with a little joy right now. And as any pet owner will tell you, having a furkid to keep you company at home during the circuit breaker period definitely helps.

And the interest is growing – the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) told CNA Lifestyle it has seen a “tenfold increase” in foster applications during this time as people look to pets for companionship.

But it is 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 SPCA’s Executive Director Dr Jaipal Singh Gill.

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. “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 a veterinarian from Vetpal Dr Camellia Leong.

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

Dr Leong 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.

Taking your pet as a source of joy can also go overboard in some cases. “There have been cases on social media of pets being placed in stressful situations for human entertainment,” said Dr Gill. “We hope such actions do not persist.”

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.

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.

Ensure they have a quiet area they can retreat to and try not to overwhelm them with love and affection all day.

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 have 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.

Keep a two-metre distance apart from other people and dogs, do not gather together to let them play with each other.

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 wash your pet’s paws after they have been out on walks.”

“For cats, ensure they are kept indoors, as if they are free roaming there is a chance they could become infected if they come into regular contact with an infected person outside,” she added.

Dr Leong said pet owners should be mindful of their pet food stock and to ensure that you have an ample supply, especially if your pet has a preference.