By Lauren French
COVID-19 has been devastating non-essential businesses since it hit the United States in March. Small businesses and shops all over the country have been forced to close due to stay-at-home orders and lockdown restrictions. However, one of the few industries that has seemed to benefit from the pandemic is the pet industry.
Pet adoption rates across the country surged during lockdown periods. Shelters experienced major increases in adoption rates, mainly due to the fact that people were home 24/7. What better time to train and get to know recently adopted pets, all while also enjoying their unconditional love?
The pet industry has even been dubbed by some as “recession-proof.” It grew by as much as 7% in both 2001 and 2008, withstanding the financial impact caused by the Y2K scare and 9/11 attacks in 2001, as well as the housing crash in 2008. Fast forward to 2020 and COVID-19: When the ability to attend social gatherings was taken away, people turned to their pets for comfort and company. People are yearning for social and emotional connections that can be fulfilled by pets in the absence of human contact. Pet supplies and services are always a necessity for pet owners, no matter the economic state, with the American Pet Products Association going so far as to categorize pet products and supplies as “essential” during the pandemic.
Transitioning back to normal life: A Q&A with Kristen Levine
As people begin to return to the office and their normal routines, pets are likely to experience fear, anxiety and stress (FAS), as their routines are once again disturbed. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to help your furry friends through the change. We spoke with FWV Fetching President and pet expert Kristen Levine to discuss the effects of the pandemic on the pet industry and different ways to help smoothly transition your pet back to his or her pre-pandemic routine. Kristen recently released a new free eBook, The Pet Parent’s Back-to-Work Guide, which provides tips about re-establishing your workday routine, social distancing from your pet, and utilizing various calming techniques for when you return to work.
Q: Are there things pet parents should begin doing now in anticipation of returning to a normal work schedule?
KL: One of the most effective methods to help prevent stress in pets is to gradually re-establish routines before you return to the office. Resume the morning routine you would typically go through before a day in the office, even if you aren’t going into the office that day. Modify your pet’s extended quarantine walks back to their pre-pandemic schedule. This will help your pet slowly become adjusted to a new schedule.
Q: How can we help prevent our pets from experiencing separation anxiety when we return to work?
KL: Because separation anxiety can be extreme if your pet is accustomed to being by your side 24/7, it’s important to maintain some “social distancing” from your pet while you’re still in the house. For instance, try stepping outside to read a book for an hour or leaving the house for short periods of time to run errands. In addition, creating a safe space for your pet in your house is a great way to help them feel safe and secure even if their family is not home.
It’s also key to give your pet lots of love and attention while you are with them. Otherwise, it is common for pets to feel anxious and stressed if they are deprived of their usual attention.
Q: Are there any specific products that can be useful in easing separation anxiety?
KL: There are plenty of calming products and techniques that can help reduce stress in dogs and cats, such as calming oils, anti-anxiety vests (like Thundershirts) and various treats. You can also utilize resources you likely already have on hand, like leaving on a television or music when you leave, both of which can comfort pets by making them feel less alone when their owners aren’t home.
Remember that each pet is different and may respond differently to various techniques. Nevertheless, taking even a few of these steps can help ease your pet back into a post-COVID routine and prevent FAS as things slowly return to some level of normalcy.