Fuzzy, furry friends are filling our homes since the lockdowns due to cornoravirus began in early March.
Over the last two months, the numbers of people fostering cats and dogs have risen dramatically over the same period last year.
“About 40% of all of the shelter population in the country are in foster homes right now, and that represents a current reality of about 60 to 90,000 animals, which is huge,” said Julie Castle, chief executive officer for Best Friends Animal Society, which helped launch the no kill movement in the United States.
Those numbers are based on data gathered by 24PetWatch, a pet insurance company that provides a weekly snapshot of over 1,100 animal welfare organizations around the country.
Adoptions, while down due to the closing of shelters, may be starting to rise as well, Castle said, perhaps a result of people falling in love with their foster pets and giving them forever homes.
In the Best Friends no-kill shelter in Salt Lake City, 46% of foster applicants said they were interested in potentially adopting. If they follow through — and that attitude is replicated across the US and other countries where there’s been an uptick in fostering — it could be a huge win for homeless animals everywhere.
But if that doesn’t happen and people begin returning foster pets as they return to work, the impact on shelters already strapped by a lack of funds could be devastating.
“It’s going to put a lot of pressure on animal welfare groups and shelters, and they’re going to have to reach out to the community for support,” said Michelle Cole, who is the chief marketing and sales officer at Pethealth Inc., the parent company of 24PetWatch.
“This is also the typical fundraising period, and they haven’t been able to do that due to coronavirus,” she added. “So already a lot of them are experiencing more financial strain.”
Adoption agencies are sounding the alarm, trying to encourage people to understand the ramifications of returning fostered or adopted pets who may be undergoing some behavior change or separation anxiety as their owners return to work.
In the United Kingdom, one of the largest welfare charities, called Dogs Trust, has changed its 30-year-old slogan from “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” to “A dog is for life, not just for lockdown.”
“Most of the shelter organizations are asking, ‘Why do you need to relinquish that pet? Can we give you support so that won’t ever be necessary?’ ” Montgomery said.
“Animal welfare organizations can be super creative and helpful in trying to solve those problems. We want to keep pets at home.”
If you find yourself in need of help with food or medicine for your pet, experts suggested calling a number of animal welfare groups and shelters in your area, as some may be more able to assist than others.
To also make sure that pet lovers continue to love and keep their pets, animal welfare organizations offer the following advice.
If you’ve already fostered a pet, you have likely taken into account the extra money you’ll need. If not, experts said, please stop and do so.
Vaccines, supplies like crates and litter boxes, vet appointments, heartworm and flea prevention, toys, food and pet-sitting costs can add up quickly to thousands of dollars each year, depending on the pet’s age and health status. Additional expenses, depending on the pet, include training and grooming.
There are ways to cut expenses, such as buying in bulk from pet supply or large warehouse stores, and many vets and shelters offer free or reduced spay and neuter surgeries.
You can reduce the need for vet and grooming costs if you brush your pet’s hair and teeth daily. Start very young, especially with cats.
Training and preventative supplies
If you’ve adopted a puppy, prepare to be calm and patient during potty training, and be sure to provide alternatives for teething so Fido doesn’t destroy your shoes and socks.
Obedience and behavioral training is well worth the investment in time and money, experts said. From potty training to teaching your pup to sit, stay, heel and behave, a well-trained dog is less likely to develop bad habits that irritate pet owners.
One of the biggest – potty accidents.
“Inappropriate elimination in dogs and cats can cause issues with the human-animal bond, and unfortunately it can sometimes end up in relinquishment of animals, either rehoming or return to shelters,” said veterinarian Dr. Meredith Montgomery, a clinical assistant professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida.
“You should always check with your vet to make sure it’s not due to illness or infection,” she added. “If it keeps up, your vet can help with behavioral modification, potentially paired with pharmaceuticals, to help decrease anxiety.”
For their own safety — and that of our bird population — cats should be kept indoors, experts said.
Having an indoors-only feline companion also cuts down on vet expenses from fights and accidents.
That means having the right number of litter boxes — one more than the number of cats in the home. You must also clean them daily to keep your cat from urinating or defecating outside of the box.
Providing proper scratching posts and high perches can keep your cat from ruining furniture or climbing curtains, and experts have pointed to the success of clicker training to mold a cat’s behavior while young.
“Always praise them when they’re doing something right,” said Dr. John Howe, the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“It doesn’t do any good to get mad at the cat after the fact,” he said. “They have no idea what you’re mad about. So it’s always better in training to do positive feedback when they’re doing something right, and ignore them when doing something wrong.”
During Covid-19 social isolation, training has moved online. Be sure to look for videos and other tutorials which may also help with finances, too.
Exercise body and mind
Dog walking is excellent for our cardiovascular system, but those multiple walks are good for your pup’s health, too. Different breeds need different levels of exercise, so be sure to do your research.
Thankfully, it’s still possible to get outside during the age of coronavirus, but be sure to practice social distancing.
Just like dogs, cats need playtime too. A good “hunt” that ends in the catch and “kill” of a dangling feather or mouse right before feeding mimics behavior in the wild and