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Pet Parenting in Our New Normal

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Post-COVID-19 _ Pet Parenting in Our New Normal _ ASPCA Pet Insurance _ dog being petted by family at home

By now, we are all pretty familiar with COVID-19 and the effects it has had on our social, work, and personal lives. We have all had to adjust to a “new normal” and even our pets have had to adapt to this new routine, although most of our four-legged friends are ecstatic that their pet parents are home all day.

As some businesses and offices begin opening back up, you may find yourself in a position of returning to work soon. Or you may be asking yourself what safe socialization will look like for you and your pet. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take that will help your pet through this new transition as seamlessly as possible.

Returning to Work

For most pets, this transition of having their pet parent home all day, every day, has been nothing short of wonderful. However, our cats and dogs may not be so keen about us returning to work. In order to help them adjust, there are many things you can do to alleviate unwanted stress.

One of the most beneficial tactics to begin practicing is to leave your pet alone for longer and longer times. You can start by leaving them alone for half an hour, then an hour, and then work your way up to a few hours.

It is also helpful to create a schedule. For instance, pre-quarantine, if you would always take your dog for a walk in the morning, but since quarantine you began walking your dog in the middle of the afternoon, it will be helpful to transition back to morning walks. This will allow your dog to begin normalizing a schedule that will soon be their new everyday routine.

dog and cat receiving treats from woman while she works from home

Cat and Dog Anxiety

For some cats and dogs, having their pet parents return to work will cause anxiety. Signs of separation anxiety can include clingy behavior, pacing near a door, having accidents in the house, excessive howling or barking, destructive chewing, and attempts to escape the house.

The good news, though, is that such anxiety in pets can be treated.

For mild cases of separation anxiety, one activity that can help alleviate stress is to wear your dog or cat out before you leave. If you have a dog, you can try taking them on a walk or playing with them. The same goes for a cat, except for the walking part. By exerting a large amount of energy, your feline and canine companion will most likely be tired out and calm when you leave.

Just as exercise can help calm your pet, food and toys can help keep their mind busy and distract them when they are alone in the house. Many pet parents have found it beneficial to schedule a mealtime right before they leave—you can even hide a few pieces of food or treats around your house for your pet to find throughout the day. Puzzle toys or toys stuffed with kibble or xylitol-free peanut butter can provide long-lasting distractions, too.

Such toys should only be offered when you leave the house and put away as soon as you get home–this will help your pal associate your absence with the positive experiences of eating and playing.

For many dogs and cats, having some background noise can also offer comfort. You can try leaving your television or radio on while you are away.

If you have tried each of these methods and you still feel that your pet is showing signs of anxiety, it will be beneficial for you to consult with your veterinarian. They can help recommend Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists or other methods of relieving anxiety that may be the right choice for your pet. It’s best to address behavior issues sooner rather than later, as early treatment helps decrease their intensity and frequency.

how to handle pet anxiety infographic

Pet Socialization Post-COVID-19

We are all quite used to the term “social distancing” by now—in fact, most of us are probably self-proclaimed pros at distancing and staying as germ-free as possible. As concerns for our own health and the health of our loved ones has risen, many pet parents are now asking, “Does social distancing apply to pets as well?”

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations, pet parents should take precautions and practice social distancing with their pets as well. So, what does social distancing look like for a pet?

For cats, it is best to keep them indoors and allow very minimal to no contact at all with people and other pets from outside your household.

For dogs, walk them on a leash at least six feet away from any other animals or people. This additionally means that, for the time being, it is also a good idea to avoid dog parks—be gentle when you break this news to your pup, not getting ear scratches and pets from strangers is going to be heartbreaking.

If you recently adopted a puppy and are wondering about properly socializing them, our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) provides some expert insight into the matter.

man with a face mask walking a golden retriever

Safely Visiting the Pet Store, Groomers, and Veterinarian

As stores and businesses begin opening back up, you may be wondering, “Is it safe to visit public places with my dog?”

Pet Stores

Falling under the category of “essential business,” most pet stores have remained open. However, before you visit your local store, there are a few things to consider.

  • Should I take my dog? Many pet stores are pet-friendly, and this offers a great opportunity to get your dog out of the house. At the moment, however, it may be best to leave your pal at home, as it may not be easy to keep your dog six feet away from other animals and customers.
  • Is this an essential trip? While some of us may look for any opportunity or excuse to leave the house, that doesn’t mean we should be exposing ourselves and others to unneeded social interaction. Consider beforehand whether the item(s) you plan on buying is essential, or something your pet needs immediately. You may also want to look into online ordering, home delivery, and curbside pick-up options available in your area.
  • Can this trip be consolidated? Perhaps you’ve wanted to get your dog a new leash and some new toys, but you know that next week you will need to go to the store to get them more food. Instead of making two trips to the store, try planning your visits out so that you can make just one trip and get everything you need in one stop.
  • How can I stay safe? Of course, going out into public places cannot be avoided entirely, so when you do go out, there a few things you can do to stay safe and healthy. These include wearing a mask, keeping hand sanitizer in your car, and washing your hands immediately after returning to your home.

Considering these items beforehand will allow you to keep yourself and those close to you healthy—including your pets!


Chances are your dog, just like you, is sporting a shaggier look these days since they haven’t seen their groomers for quite a while. Some states are now giving the go-ahead to allow groomers to begin opening back up, but this varies from state to state.

Although groomers are beginning to take appointments again, chances are these businesses will still have health guidelines, so it may be helpful for you to call ahead or ask about their new policies, whenever scheduling your dog’s appointment.

It is also important to be aware of the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, which include advisements for having pets interact with people outside of your home and limiting items brought home from a groomer or boarding facility (including how to disinfect them). Of note, they also recommend pet parents send their pup with a cloth collar (ID tags attached, of course) and leash that can be laundered when they come home.

With the recent shift in social distancing rules, some professionals are now offering portable dog grooming options. Talk about a doggone good idea!


Of course, visiting your veterinarian is oftentimes an essential trip, so it definitely cannot always be avoided. In order to help keep you, your four-legged friend, and the veterinary staff safe, most veterinary offices and clinics have put new rules into effect.

Bear in mind not all veterinary offices are offering their typical full-range of services, and some elective procedures may either be not available or considerably delayed.

Before your veterinary visit, it is recommended that you call ahead and double-check any rules that may now be in place. Some safety precautions offices are now practicing include only accepting contactless pay options (e.g., only credit cards, not cash) and only allowing a small number of people in the waiting area or going completely curbside. This means concierge service for medical exams and prescription pickups.

Many pet healthcare providers are now offering telemedicine appointments as well. You may want to choose this option if available to you, as pets are more likely to experience higher stress levels if you’re unable to accompany them into the veterinary clinic. Some good news is that our coverage includes reimbursement for medically necessary telemedicine treatments that your veterinarian may provide to support the treatment of a covered injury, illness, or behavioral disorder.

woman in yellow sweater holding a cat

When COVID-19 Hits Home

In the instance that someone in your household would get sick or acquire COVID-19, you can simply use the same distancing rules for your pet as you do your family. This means keeping your pet out of any room the symptomatic person is staying in and allowing your pet no interaction at all with the sick family member.

If you live by yourself and end up getting sick, be sure to limit close contact as much as possible, wash your hands before and after interacting, and wear a face mask around your best friend. Should you need to be admitted to the hospital, it is essential that you have an emergency plan for your pet. One of the best choices is to assign a pet guardian. This may be a trusted neighbor, sibling, friend, or family member, someone who you know will love and care for your pet and, preferably, someone with whom your pet already is familiar.

If you are unable to find someone to watch over your dog or cat, you may need to board your pal. Although for many people this is not a first choice, these facilities can offer your pet a safe and healthy location while you are unable to care for them. It is recommended, however, that you choose a place either you are already familiar with or have previously researched.

Another great precautionary step is to have a pet bag packed and ready to go. Recommended items to have in this bag include food, treats, toys, a favorite bed, dishes, a leash, and if you have a cat, include a cat carrier as well. It is also important to include instructions for your pet’s care, a copy of their current vaccinations, veterinary contact information, and any medications they may need.

While it may seem unnecessary, having something like this already prepared can help put your mind at ease, knowing that in case of an emergency, your pet will already be taken care of.

Check out these other tips on how you can keep your pet and yourself healthy.

  • Wash your hands frequently. This can help reduce the transfer of any bacteria or viruses from your pet to you or vice versa.
  • Cancel your dog walker (but still pay them if you can). It’s important to limit you and your dog’s contact with other people as much as you can. If you are currently working from home and have the time to walk your dog, then go ahead and cancel your dog walker for now. However, since times are tough, if you are still able to pay them some, they will surely be thankful.
  • Invest in some basic at-home grooming supplies. While some states are allowing groomers to reopen, some pet salons are already booked up for months in advance. If you are able, it could be worth your time to do some light grooming at your house, until your dog or cat can visit their groomer again.
  • Take advantage of virtual health services. If you need your veterinarian’s opinion on your pet’s health or behavior but are wary of visiting the office, you may be able to speak virtually with a professional.
  • Make your own dog treats or cat treats. Not only is this a fun activity, but by making your own treats, you can eliminate unnecessary trips to the pet store and can help save yourself a little bit of extra money.
  • Ask for help. With this unforeseen pandemic, many people have unfortunately found themselves unemployed, so it has become difficult to support a pet financially. In many communities, there may be pet food banks set up, temporary foster situations, or pet stores offering discounts on necessities.
  • Disinfect any new pet products or toys you bring into your household. As the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

And, if you can, support your local pet shelters and humane societies so that they can continue helping others in need.

family playing with a puppy in a backyard

Adopting a Pet During Quarantine

During this unknown time, it seems that every day your news feed is flooded with not-so-great news. However, there is perhaps some good news to have come from these stay-at-home orders—more people are adopting and fostering animals.

Pandemic fosters, as some are calling them, seem to be now taking over social media. There have even been numerous shelters and humane societies across the United States that are now completely empty, thanks to people everywhere who have been opening up their homes.

With an abundance of time on our hands and the restriction of staying home, it is undeniably a great time to either foster or adopt a pet of your own.

Before committing to a pet, though, it is important to evaluate and be realistic at what your lifestyle will look like post-quarantine. Items to consider are how long your usual workday is (in other words, how long your pet will be by themselves each day), how active you are, how often you go out on the evenings or weekends, and how often you leave town for vacation.

By answering these questions, you can better decide if now truly is the ideal time for you to welcome a new friend into your home and if it is, these questions can help you narrow down with what type of pet you could be more compatible. For instance, cats can be left alone for much longer times than dogs, so if you go out most nights, a cat could be a better choice. Or, if you live a very active lifestyle and go on runs or hikes every day, then a more active dog could be the perfect match.

Another great option to consider is fostering. This can be a short-term commitment that will allow you to help an animal in need, while also gaining a quarantine buddy.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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