Most of us are experiencing some form of pandemic-related stress right now. We have all had our routines disrupted, even those of us who are considered “essential workers” and still get to go to work and have social contact there. We have lost our usual day-to-day contacts and activities, and are now restricted in how often we can go out, when we can run errands, etc. Add to that the generalized anxiety many of us share with respect to the future and it’s easy to feel like our lives are out of control.
Welcome to the world of your dog. Or your cat. Or your bird or goldfish, for that matter.
We all have a taste now of what it feels like to have an external force that is beyond our control, determining where we can walk, when we can walk, where we can eat, and what recreational activities are available to us. Our household companions grow up with these restrictions. However, think about how unsettling it must be when their regular daily patterns change. Every time our work schedule changes, or we alter our exercise routines, move to a new house, add another family member or pet, rehome an animal… Some animals are very adaptable and “go with the flow” even when accommodations are not specifically made for them, but many cannot. They feel threatened by the new level of unpredictability that is introduced into their lives with change.
These animals sometimes exhibit destructive, passive, or aggressive behaviors as a result of their stress. We may mistake these behaviors as “acting out” because our pets are “angry” when, in reality, they are trying to soothe or protect themselves. Have you been snappy with your partner, felt like staying in bed all day, not even been able to decide what to eat, or just wanted to PUNCH SOMETHING? If so, you know exactly how stressed pets feel!
All of our pets are”captive species,” a term we used to reserve for wild animals in captivity. Please let your own experience as a “captive species” during the pandemic inform your view of the world your pets inhabit. Their lives will be better for it!
Dr. Brenda Mills and staff members