May 7th
Practicing Self Care with Our Pets

May is Mental Health Month. It also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Week. Both are reasons to consider talking about mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. Throw in an ongoing global pandemic, and it’s only natural that people are struggling more than ever.

Personally, I have heard from friends and family that this Lockdown/Stay at Home order has been hard. Remember there is no “normal” to this very abnormal situation we all find ourselves in, even though we have been in it for a while – it’s an ever-changing situation that we have no blueprint for.

Our mental health not only affects ourselves, but it also affects our family – and this extends to our furry family as well. Our animals are amazing in that they can also greatly benefit our mental health by giving us something to care for, getting us to interact with them, helping to reduce our stress and anxiety, and by providing us with unconditional love. Animals are naturally empathetic and can sense when we are stressed or anxious. They are experts at body language and can often sense signs of stress even before we acknowledge them ourselves. What are some ways to practice self care WITH our pets? Take a look at this list:

  1. Play! Invest in or DIY some interactive toys. Some examples are:
    • Toilet paper/paper towel rolls – fill with a few treats and tuck in the ends, and let your animal shake and rip apart the roll to get the treats. This is great for cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and birds.
    • Interactive feeding – feed your animal with their food in an egg carton that they must knock about to get the food out of.
    • Snufflemats – this is a great DIY project as it provides your dog or cat with the opportunity to sniff and search their way through fleece strips in search of kibble or treats.
    • Stuffed Kongs – fill the Kong with a few treats or kibble from their normal diet.
  2. Get social(ly distanced). Take advantage of all the online classes for pets being offered right now. Sign up for a course to brush up on basic training or one that works on new or advanced tricks. This is also a great way to socialize with other pet owners in a safe way.
  3. Get some exercise. Exercise is great stimulation for any pet. Spend some time each day focused on play and exercise with your pet. This will help strengthen the human-animal bond and provides a great outlet for extra energy your pet may have.
    • Go for a walk – allow your dog (or cat!) a chance to sniff and explore the world.
    • Play indoors – find a space to safely play with your pet indoors. Create an indoor obstacle course, or hide treats/kibble/pellets around a room to let your animal explore and find the treats.