Returning to the office: how will it affect our small pets?
Restrictions lifting will mean a change in daily routines for many of us, as lots of employees will be returning to the office. But whether you’re going into your workplace full-time, continuing to work from home, or adapting to a hybrid style of working, it seems that we are all slowly adapting to the “new normal”, and it’s not just us hoomans who will be affected by these changes.
Our small pets have been our faithful companions and work-from-home buddies throughout this prolonged period of uncertainty, providing us with comfort and helping to lift our spirits. So, its crucial owners continue to 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 will really value routine and feel most comfortable when they have a set daily schedule. Because of this, it’s important that owners are aware of the challenges that their small pets may face, what they might find stressful and ways things can be made easier for these little animals.
The “new normal”
Although small pets may seem like fairly resilient creatures, they very much like having a set daily schedule. The reason for this is probably linked to the fact they are prey animals, and so knowing what to expect helps to give them a sense of security. Because of this, the changes caused by restrictions lifting may be a bit stressful for them.
For starters, your small pet will have become used to the peace and quiet of a house with less visitors. They will most likely have enjoyed having limited noise and fewer bodies around.
Now that restrictions have lifted, many of us will be starting to welcome more friends and family members back into our homes again, so it’s important to be aware that this is quite a big adjustment for our pets. To make things easier for them, try to keep guests separate from your small pets as much as possible when you first have people over, and avoid being too noisy – as this may frighten these small animals. Once you have had visitors on a few occasions, and your pets have had more of a chance to get used to the noise and commotion, you can slowly transition back to normal.
And, if you are able to keep your small pets separate from your guests, it’s best to try and keep them 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 loud guests – even if this means moving them out of the room they normally live in – as most small pets will favour peace over familiarity.
More time alone
With restriction measures easing, this will also inevitably mean that you’ll be out and about more often, meaning 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 pet’s enclosure to encourage them to move, search and gnaw.
- Snuffle mats are small mats covered in soft felt strands. Owners can hide treats in between these felt pieces, again to encourage small pets to have a good old sniff around when searching for their food.
You can also find more information and inspiration on enrichment toys here.
Change in routine
Although restrictions lifting will mean that your pets’ daily schedule may change, it’s important to try and keep these changes to a minimum, maintaining a routine wherever possible (even if it’s a new one). And, when you do make changes to their schedule, try to do so slowly, as this 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 may show when they’re 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, or notice your small pet is behaving abnormally, it’s always best to speak to a veterinary professional for further advice.
So, that sums up our advice on how you can help to keep your pet as happy and relaxed as possible now that 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.