Now that lockdown restrictions are finally easing, it’s not just us hoomans who will be affected by life returning to some sort of normal. Our small pets have been our companions throughout this time of uncertainty, providing us with comfort and helping to lift our spirits. So, it’s crucial owners bear them in mind now we are able to return to our daily routines.
Change can be a big deal for small furries, as most of these little creatures favour routine and feel most comfortable with a set daily schedule. It’s important to remember that many small pets may have only ever experienced ‘lockdown life’ or will have no memory of what life was like before Covid restrictions. Because of this, it’s important that owners are aware of the changes that their small pets may face, what they might find stressful and ways things can be made easier for these little animals.
Although small pets may seem like fairly resilient little creatures, they very much like having a routine. This is probably because they are prey animals and so knowing what to expect helps to give them a sense of security. Because of this, there are quite a few changes post-lockdown that small pets may find stressful:
For starters, during lockdown your small pet will have become used to the peace and quiet of a house without guests. Lockdown has meant that your delivery people have probably become your only visitors, and your pet will most likely have enjoyed having less noise and less bodies around.
Now that we are allowed to have friends and family in our houses again, it’s important to be aware that this will be quite a big adjustment for our pets. To make things easier on your pets, try to keep your guests separate from them as much as possible when you first have people over, and avoid being too noisy – as this may frighten your small furries. Once you have had visitors on a few occasions, and your pets have had the chance to get used to the noise and commotion, you can slowly transition back to normal.
If you are able to keep your small pets separate from your guests at first, it’s best to try and keep your pets in the room they normally live in, as they will be more familiar with the smells, sights and sounds, which will also help to keep them calm and relaxed. However, if you have more limited space, it’s better to move your pets away from noisy guests, even if this means moving them out of their normal room – as most small pets will favour peace over familiarity.
More time alone
Lockdown easing inevitably means that you will be out and about more, and your small pets will have to spend more time on their own. And while small pets tend to cope better on their own than animals such as dogs, they can still become bored and will often really benefit from enrichment activities to help keep them stimulated and entertained.
There are tons of different enrichments activities you can offer your small pets – whether you’re at home with them or not. Here are some of our favourite ideas:
- Items such as kitchen towel rolls or egg boxes can be stuffed with hay and treats, to encourage your pet to have a good old forage (although it’s important to make sure you use brown, unbleached cardboard with no dyes).
- Treats such as stickles (which are suitable for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and chinchillas) can be placed around your small pet’s enclosure to encourage your small pet to move, search and gnaw.
- Snuffle mats are mats covered in soft felt strands. Owners can hide treats in between these felt pieces, again to encourage small pets to have a good search for their food.
And you can find more information and inspiration on enrichment toys here.
Change in routine
Although lockdown easing will inevitably mean that your pets’ daily schedule may change, it’s important to try and keep these changes to a minimum, maintain a routine wherever possible (even if it’s a new one) and try to make changes slowly. By doing this you will help to ensure your pets stay as calm and content as possible.
Signs of stress in small pets
Signs of anxiety and stress will vary between different small pet species, and it’s always best to speak to your vet if you think something isn’t right with your animal.
Although this is by no means a complete list, below are some of the main signs that small pets can show when they are feeling unhappy or stressed:
- Flattened ears
- Wide eyes
- Hunched body
- Hiding or running away
- Enclosure circling
- No nose twitching
- Head tossing
- Not wanting to move
- Thumping back feet (in bunnies)
If you see any of these signs of stress, or notice your small pets are behaving abnormally, it’s always best to speak to a veterinary professional for further advice.
So that sums up our advice for keeping your pet as happy and relaxed as possible once restrictions have eased. For so many of us, our pets have been such a comfort to us during such challenging times, so it’s important that we return the favour and make their lives as easy and calm as possible as we return to ours.