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What to Know: Pet Adoption, Fostering Mid-Coronavirus

Originally posted on LinkedIn by Angela Hughes, Global Scientific Advocacy Relations Senior Manager & Veterinary Geneticist at Mars Petcare

In these uncertain times, people are grappling with quarantining caused by COVID-19 and its effects. 

To help people through these difficult days, some seek companionship and comfort from pets like never before. There have been many news stories in both the United States and the United Kingdom about people who are now working and staying at home wanting to adopt or foster pets. In fact, some U.S. animal shelters report a significant rise in pet adoptions and many foster organizations have placed all available pets.

While this increase in animal adoptions certainly is a step toward ending pet homelessness, it’s important to be responsible pet owners and remain committed to keep our pets happy and healthy.

Here’s how to best care for your (new) pets during these unprecedented times.

Benefits of pet ownership

Pets are known to provide both physical and mental health benefits for their owners, especially during times of increased stress and anxiety.

Research shows that pet ownership promotes regular physical activity, better heart health, and most importantly in these current times, helps us deal with stress and combat loneliness amid social isolation and self-quarantining at home. Not to mention, dog ownership in particular helps childrens’ development — especially their self-esteem and social skills — and provides cognitive benefits for older adults such as helping them remember details. 

Considering adopting a new pet? 

It’s essential to remember to adopt a pet that will fit your lifestyle. While many of our ways of life are shifting as a result of coronavirus, new adopters must remember their new family member needs to fit in with their lifestyle when things return to normal as well.

Tip 1: Age matters

Animal shelters are a great place to find vaccinated, housetrained dogs and cats of all ages, but ask yourself these questions first: Am I ready for to take responsibility for a puppy or kitten? Or is a mature dog or cat more my speed? 

If you choose to adopt a young dog, remember that puppies have unique nutritional needs, and require a significant amount of attention as compared to a more mature dog. Puppies need socialization and you’ll want to start basic training early, especially potty training! Puppies also require more frequent veterinary care to keep them healthy, including vaccinations and parasite control.

Many older dogs and cats in animal shelters are often housetrained, have lower energy levels and make great companions.

Tip 2: Adopt a pet that fits your lifestyle

Say you’ve decided that you’re going to adopt a dog. You will want to consider what breed or type of dog is right for you right now. Different breeds have different exercise and activity needs. Some, like a Shih Tzu or a Greyhound, are happy to take a leisurely walk, while other breeds like a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd require a lot of exercise. 

Within specific breeds, new data from the Pet Insight Project shows that puppy activity varies dramatically from activity later in life. When looking at the 20 most popular breeds taking part in the Pet Insight Project, most of the puppies are between three and four times more active than their breed’s adult or senior counterparts. 

For example, German Shepherd puppies are three times more active than senior German Shepherds, while Jack Russell Terrier puppies aren’t that much more energetic than their senior counterparts. 

If you’re adopting a mixed-breed dog, you can gain deeper insights with a dog DNA test like WISDOM PANEL.

By understanding the different breeds of your adopted dog, you can learn what levels of activity may be right for them, predict their adult weight and size and better understand their behavioral and nutrition needs. You also will learn what types of inherited health conditions they may be susceptible to and use this information to work with your veterinarian to prevent or mitigate disease.

Tip 3: Stay active with your new pet while physically distancing from others (aka social distancing)

Our daily routines have changed as a result of physical isolation, and we need to ensure we’re getting exercise. If you’ve chosen to adopt a new pet during the current restrictions, we have some tips for fun exercise and play with your pets.

For dog owners, continue to provide your pups with regular exercise and playtime. Daily walks — while maintaining appropriate physical distance — and breaks for playtime will go a long way to help keep you both active.

When you’re not able to leave the house, play hide and seek or set up obstacle courses for them (only if there’s room and it’s safe to do so!). You also can work on basic obedience training or teach your dog new tricks. This helps to engage your pet both physically and mentally and it never hurts to brush up on the basics.

For our feline friends, cat owners can play short, 20- to 30-second games with their cats to keep them active. Use activity feeders like balls, mazes and towers during feeding time for added play. Activity feeders keep cats active and engaged, but remember that cats have differing levels of dexterity so you may want to try a few different types of activity feeders to find the right fit. 

Tip 4: Keep your new family member safe and healthy

When you bring home a new pet, there are so many things to consider. However, if you’re adopting during a time of physical distancing, it’s essential to make sure your new pet — and your family — both stay safe and healthy. 

 

Good hygiene practices are key to keep your pet and family safe. You can keep your pet safe by avoiding contact with wildlife or those who may be infected by COVID-19. Ensure your pets remain healthy by talking to your veterinarian and staying on schedule with at-home preventive care like parasite prevention.

As always, remember to wash your hands after handling animals, wear gloves and use a plastic bag when picking up animal feces and routinely disinfect your animals’ crates or feeding areas.

Bonding with your pets during social distancing

A major upside to spending more time at home is that we now have so many more opportunities to bond with our pets. And our pets benefit from this increased bond, too.

We can maximize this bonding time — with newly adopted or the established members of your family — by sharing experiences, continuing to train them and maintaining positive and clear communication. Giving cats and dogs treats also can encourage good behavior and bonding — but remember to treat in moderation! (Pro tip: using some of their regular kibble can go a long way as a “treat!”)

For many of us, we typically spend the day away from our pets. Now we have an opportunity to better understand our pets’ facial expressions and body language — so use this time to observe and learn more about them. Not to mention, we also have more time to reap the benefits of grooming and stroking our pets, which helps us relieve stress and feels good for them too.

As always, adopting or fostering is a great choice, but plan accordingly

Both dog and cat parents can attest to the many benefits of pet ownership. You have a companion that can cheer you up or make you laugh as well as help relieve stress or anxiety. As we face an increasingly uncertain world, we’re seeing so many more people choose a pet for this companionship and support. 

While this surge in pet adoptions and fostering is a great stride toward reducing pet homelessness and helping to make room in animal shelters for more rescues, please remember to consider the commitment you make when you invite a new member into your family.

Together, we can make A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS™, just as they continue to make our world better even in these unusual times.

Mars Petcare’s Waltham brings Pet Health Pal, a new educational resource powered by Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to answer top questions and bust myths related to pet health and ownership curing this unprecedented time.

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