By Katrina Kagan

Can we just acknowledge that it’s a weird time for everyone right now? Things that once seemed simple require new thought and care. We’re worried about our friends and loved ones who can’t stay home. And, as we stay home to try to slow the spread of COVID—19, we’re all in need of some grace and time to adjust to this “new normal.”

As a pet owner, I’ve learned that adjusting my routines means adjusting my pets’ too. In an effort to organize all my pet-owner thoughts, I decided to jot them down in the context of small ways I can be helpful to my favorite community of pet-lovers (and my own dog, Otis!) right now.

How to support pet owners in need:

For many people losing their jobs, or working overtime to care for others — and many others falling ill, sacrificing pet care isn’t a choice but a necessity. Here are a few suggestions to help those who may need support to avoid surrendering their pets.

Medical and financial support: The Humane Society has provided a full list of resources for those who need medical, financial or other forms of support to care for their pets.

Pet food and care items: Find your local pet pantry. Local rescues and Humane Societies often have a pantry program that allows you to gather pet food and other care items in times of need.

Help your friends with pets: If you aren’t under self-quarantine and have a friend in healthcare, a family member working overtime, or an elderly neighbor who is at risk, offer to walk their dog, or drop off items like cat litter, pet food, or pet medications.

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How to support local rescues and shelters right now:

Shelters around the country are becoming overwhelmed due to more owner surrenders, limited resources, fewer volunteers, and business restrictions. Fortunately, many individuals are also lending a helping hand to their local organizations, allowing rescues to come in and save more animals.

Donate to your local rescue or shelter: If you’re able, consider donating to support the rescue efforts of your local organizations. Rescues pull animals from high-kill shelters across the country, and organize relief during natural disasters and emergency situations. They feed, vaccinate, spay/neuter, rehabilitate, and re-home thousands of animals each year.

Donate goods or shop online for your local rescues and shelters: If you can’t contribute financially, you can donate care items or order them online. Many organizations have an Amazon wishlist, a great option that lets you stay home rather than delivering in person. Check their website for links, or email them to ask!

Use Amazon Smile: If you aren’t able to purchase goods for others, but are using Amazon to order items to your home, search the full name of an org of your choice to have Amazon send a percentage of your spending to them.

Foster, if your local rescues have asked: So many of us are fortunate enough to be working from home indefinitely. If you’re like me, you’ve thought “Hey, maybe I should foster a dog right now!” and the good news is so many folks have thought the same that all my local orgs are flooded with applications. That is GREAT, they can rescue so many more animals! If you too want to foster, check their Facebook pages, and Instagram if they have one, first. If you see a call for fosters, apply! If you don’t, send them a message or email to ask first!

Adopt a pet: Adopting, like fostering, saves two lives - the life of the animal you’re caring for, and then one you’ve opened up a space for at your rescue. If you’ve been previously considering getting a dog, cat, rabbit, hamster, guinea pig, iguana etc. then adopt! If you’re home full-time, you’ll have so much more time for training, bonding, and to take an abundance of sleeping pet photos. But also consider what your schedule and means will look like when you return back to business as usual. It’s important to make sure you’ll be able to give your pet what it needs when you’re no longer staying home.

Send your pet to daycare or get a walker once a week: If you have the means, continue to support the services you used prior to WFH. Just like restaurants and retail, the pet service industry is suffering right now as well. (Plus, it’ll give you a chance to vacuum without be barked at!)

How to support your own pet right now:

Check your Pet Care Provider’s COVID-19 procedures: Many vets and groomers are limiting patient and owner access at their facilities with options like pick-up and drop off, and curb-side greeting. They are also limiting non-essential services like nail trims etc. Call and ask to make sure you’re updated if your pet needs anything.

Stock up on necessary pet medications and supplies: Please — and I mean PLEASE — don’t hoard months of pet food and supplements if you don’t need to. Stock up on an extra bag of food, treats, and request all required medications in advance to avoid low stock when you really need them.

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How to entertain furry friends in need of extra attention rn:

Get Outside: If your city permits it, get outside and breathe some fresh air. Take a socially distanced walk. Visit your dog park if it’s safe, empty-ish, and open. Your dog will love the extra activity, and you can get in some good screen-less time.

Teach an old (or young) dog new tricks: If you’ve already maxed out on daily walks with your dog, try offering them mental stimulation in addition to physical activity. Tails of Connection is a Slack community and online challenge to help you teach your dog a few new tricks, practice and maintain obedience, and also strengthen your bond through fun games! Plus, all that thinking will tire them out.

Get out the high-value treats: Have a pet bothering you the minute you hit that dial-in? Give them a high-value treat that keeps them busy. I recommend a Kong or hollow toy with plain yogurt and peanut butter or pumpkin puree, or a big ol’ bully stick.

Use a pet puzzle or build your own: My favorite is a snuffle mat, or you can also make one at home with an old t-shirt. Take out all those empty toilet paper rolls you now have and fold one end inward to close the opening. Deposit a few small treats and close the second end, and there you have a treat puzzle! A simpler version: Place a few plastic cups around the room with treats underneath, let your pet figure out how to knock them down. And the most basic: Have your pet sit in one spot while you hide small treats around your home, then let them explore and find them.

Images via @otistheyorkiepoo. </small>

How are you helping your furry friend or community of animal lovers right now? Let us know in the comments. For more ideas for your pet, visit: stayhometakecare.com.