Lockdown: How are our pets coping with us?

Kittens with toilet paper

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Many of us are spending a lot more time with our pets

Pet owners know how important the companionship of our beloved animals can be, and the joy they bring when they greet us as we arrive home.

But what if you are now at home almost all the time? How are our furry friends coping with sharing “their territory” with us all day, every day?

‘She’s driving me crazy’

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Rea Dominguez

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Rea Dominguez says Fidget wants more exercise than is on offer during lockdown

Professional pet sitter Rea Dominguez says her dog Fidget is aptly named.

Although her usual work with up to 13 dogs has dried up as a result of the restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus, she is still looking after two whose owner is a hospital worker in Cambridge.

“One of them, Harry, is a very chilled dog,” she says, however, her own pet Fidget is “driving me crazy”

“Fidget wants to… fidget!”

The border collie is used to an active life, regularly taking part in cross-country runs with lots of other dogs and owners, but now she “has too much energy”, Miss Dominguez says.

“She is constantly running around the house, looking at me and wanting to go out – she just does not stop.”

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Rea Dominguez

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“Chilled-out” Harry isn’t bothered by anything much

Her sister’s dog Madge, on the other hand, has become a “desk dog”.

Unused to having her owner there all the time, Madge is now “so needy that under or beside the desk is too far… only on the desk will do”.

However, her owner says Madge is “a rubbish assistant – she can’t make coffee, sleeps during office hours and even snores during meetings”.

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Nikki Dominguez

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Madge snores while her owner Nikki Dominguez tries to work from home

‘He won’t leave me alone’

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Rebecca Carey

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Jupiter is taking advantage of having his owners at home

“My partner spends far more time playing with bits of ribbon and a ‘wild cat’ than actually working,” says Rebecca Carey, owner of Jupiter, a black cat from Cambourne in Cambridgeshire.

Since both she and her partner Daniel Bates have been at home full time, their furry feline, nicknamed Catty, has taken full advantage of them.

“Catty loves it, he won’t leave me alone and plonks his butt on my book, or laptop, sewing machine or phone,” she says.

He has quickly got used to the new situation, and Ms Carey says Catty “gets a little cross” if he doesn’t receive constant attention.

“He seems to genuinely enjoy having us about.”

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Rebecca Carey

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Catty likes to distract his “dad”

And Catty appears to have wrapped Ms Carey’s partner around his little claw.

“Every single time I check on Daniel, he’s either holding some ribbons or cuddled up with Catty, conveniently ‘having a break’.”

Ms Carey says that Jupiter has also forced the couple to go wireless, “one cable at a time”, such is his fondness for attacking their equipment.

‘He can be vicious’

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Media captionAndy Clarke home-working with Ringo

Another cat taking advantage of his owner being at home is Ringo.

This black puss, from Brightlingsea in Essex, is doing his best to stop owner Andy Clarke from working at home as an IT company director.

Typical of many felines, Ringo is super-friendly while asking for food, but when Mr Clarke tries to ignore his pet’s demands, Ringo soon loses patience and strikes out with his claws.

“He can be a bit of a vicious serpent… he jumps on my shoulders, headbutts me, and tries to bite my nose off,” Mr Clarke says.

“When I’m away I expect he probably curls up and sleeps, but he seems to have learned I’m here to give him biscuits and treats.”

‘He’s a little depressed’

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Guide Dogs

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Roy Richards says his guide dog Jones is really missing other people

Sadly, not all animals have adapted readily to the change in circumstances.

Jones, a labrador-retriever cross from Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, is a guide dog for 63-year-old Roy Richards.

“Jones is used to coming to the office with me every day, but I had to close down the dry cleaner’s I run and now we are alone at home,” he says.

“We often went to one of the village pubs in the evening and Jones would meet all our friends, and he loved it.

“We can’t do that now,” Mr Richards says.

“Jones is a little bit down at the moment. I can tell he’s a little depressed – he’s so used to seeing people.”

His owner can still take Jones for a daily walk on a lead, and plays lots of games with him inside the house, while a friend can occasionally take Jones for “a runabout where he can behave like a normal dog”.

“It’s not the same,” Mr Richards says of their current predicament.

“But Jones and me will just have to get through this.”

Pets in lockdown: Advice from the experts

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If you have 15 toilet roll tubes, you could make something like this to amuse your cat

  • The RSPCA and other animal charities have plenty of ideas for how to keep pets amused, including using empty toilet roll tubes (if you have any…) to build a pyramid structure to hide treats in for your cat, which will also make your pet work for those tasty morsels.
  • Essex-based animal behaviourist Chrissi Lewis says while it’s “lovely” that we get to spend all this time with our pets, when things do return to normal “there could be all sorts of separation anxiety issues”. “Wherever possible, try not to spend every minute with them, so if you’re working from home, maybe get them used to going in another room, even if it’s just for half an hour so they’re not with you 24/7.”
  • The Guide Dogs charity says it’s important to keep your animal occupied. “Given the current situation and increase in self-isolation, two things that dog owners can do, and that dogs love, is playing tug-of-war with an appropriate toy and having regular bonding sessions such as stroking and grooming.”
  • The government advice is that there’s “no evidence of coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans”. “In line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.”

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