‘Act now’ and prepare pets for changes when lockdown lifts

Local pet owners are being urged to act now and prepare their animals for changes to their lifestyle and routine when Covid 19 restrictions are lifted.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 12:06 pm

Catherine Magill, one of the founders of St Columb’s Animal Rescue and Rehoming in Derry, told the Journal how ‘preparation is key’ is ensuring pets are ready for ‘normal life’ when their owners go back to work, school and when more people begin to visit their home.

Lockdown has seen a ‘huge surge’ in demand for pets, which has led to concerns over how they will adjust as it is lifted.

Catherine is a foster carer for the animals at St Columb’s Animal Rescue and Rehoming and said they have been ‘inundated’ with calls from people seeking animals.

There has been a huge demand for pets during lockdown, particularly cats and dogs.

However, she added how it is not just as simple as matching a pet with the first person who asks and there are many factors to consider.

The rehoming centre has not seen an increase in numbers ‘coming through the door’ over the last year and Catherine said this could be attributed to the fact people have more time to spend with pets and are investing in training and care. However, due to the fact that demand for animals has raised prices - some dogs are selling for £1000 - £2000 and more- many people who would have previously surrendered their animals for rehoming are selling them.

There are fears that as lockdown lifts and people go back to ‘normal life,’ centres such as St Columb’s will see a huge increase in pets coming into their care.

Catherine told how she is ‘trying to be optimistic’ and hopes that the bond people have created with their pets will ensure they want to do everything they can to help them adjust.

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However, she outlined how research from the Royal Veterinary College has shown the reasons people got an animal in 2020 were very different from those in 2019, with one of the main reasons being that they had more time. As that free time lessens when lockdown measures lift, there are concerns that animals will be the ones who will feel the negative impacts.

Catherine said that if pet owners prepare now, it will reduce the stress and upset for all.

“Dogs and cats are currently living in a different reality to normal - as we all are - as there are people in the house all the time and strangers aren’t coming in. In terms of preparing for going back to work and school etc, we’d encourage people to start building up the time you’re away from them, ahead of time.

“You should think of maybe getting in touch with a good animal behaviourist or vet and speak to them about what you can do to help keep your pet safe and happy while you’re away. Many behaviourists are doing consultations online and these are working really well, as the animal is relaxed at home.

“Also, if you have a family member or neighbour that could check on them during the day, to break the day up for them, that would be great. We have some great dog walkers here, so people could look into that. Everyone should do their research now and prepare before you go back to work - preparation is key. You’ve got to see it from the animal’s eyes, we can’t explain to them, so we’ve got to prepare ahead of time.”

Catherine added how some people will get another pet to keep the other company but this is not always a good idea.

“It has good intentions, but sometimes you end up with double trouble. It’s you they’ll be pining over, not another dog.”

Catherine said pet owners should be aware that there will be a transition for the animals and some could regress or display unusual behaviours.

“We always explain to those who adopt our pets that any change in circumstance could lead to a regression in the pet. It’s about being patient and working with them to make sure they can adapt and are happy.”

She said she is hoping that people will want to do everything they can to ensure their pets have a smooth transition into their new way of life, but she is nervous. “Research is stating that there will be a tsunami of pets being handed in. But if people act now, hopefully that won’t be the case.”

The pets at St Columbs Rescue and Rehoming are cared for in foster homes and, with lockdown, they haven’t been able to fundraise. You can find out more about St Columbs Animal Rescue and Rehoming on their Facebook page.