How to keep your pet safe, well and happy during lockdown – York RSPCA and city council answer FAQs

Photograph: huoadg5888 / Pixabay
23 Apr 2020 @ 6.25 pm
| News

York RSPCA and City of York Council have teamed up to offer advice to residents about looking after their pets during lockdown.

The council has a responsibility to ensure animal welfare is protected in York, including helping with dog related issues, animal licences (such as for exotic animals), providing wildlife advice and much more.

Together with the RSCPA, the council has provided a range of advice for residents below, including dog walking services, what to do if your pet is unwell and how to keep your pets entertained.

How do you get access to pet food during lockdown if you’re housebound?

Lots of the larger supermarkets are running low on pet foods, but many have reported being able to get food in smaller shops and local supermarkets.  So if you or a relative can get out to buy food, it is worth trying to smaller shops first.

There are many online retailers that are continuing to deliver, such as PetsAtHome.  However, we’re seeing a lot of the food items people need are out of stock and taking a long time to arrive. One of the local pet foods shops we’re encouraging people to use is Pets Pantry, who are delivering throughout York. You can call them on 01904 620527 to place an order over the phone.

What should I do about walking my dog during the lockdown?

You can use your daily exercise to walk your dog. If you live alone, you can take your dog out once, but if two people live in your house, each person can take your dog out once or you can both take your dog out once together. You will need to keep two metres apart from other people, so we recommend keeping your pets on a lead or using a long lead in an area unless you are sure there are no other people around.

If you live alone without a garden or access to a private space and your dog needs to go to the toilet, then you can take them outside, but you must use the space nearest your home.  Please make sure these trips are only for the time needed for the dog to toilet and ensure you maintain your social distance.

If you or someone in your family is showing signs of coronavirus, then you should use your garden as a place for your dog to toilet and play. A friend, relative or someone in your community may be able to help walk but they will need to know that you are ill and follow the guidance on CFSG online. If you absolutely have to take your dog out because none of these options are possible, then walk at a safe distance from other people and minimise the time you are outside.

What are the risks of animals catching Covid-19 and passing the virus on?

Like human hands, pet fur could carry the virus and so it is important to adopt good hygiene when interacting with our pets, especially if they could have been in contact with other people. This means thoroughly washing hands with soap and water after interacting with them and avoid being kissed, licked and sharing food with them. As a precaution, we would also advise against touching a cat that you do not know while out exercising.

A very small number of animals have been reported to have tested positive for, or shown symptoms of, COVID-19. Some of these animals were deliberately exposed to the disease in an artificial setting, which did not represent real life. The others were cases where the virus has reportedly been passed from a person to an animal. Importantly, to date, there is no known evidence of the virus passing from pets to humans.

Should I try to keep my cat indoors?

Recent news reports may have left pet owners feeling particularly concerned about their cats and the possible impact of Covid-19 on their furry friends, but we’re reassuring owners that the risk is incredibly small.

If you are ill and self-isolating with the virus, or someone else in your house is, then we are advising that if your cat is happy to stay in and is used to using a litter tray, then keeping them in may be advisable. If they go outside a lot, then try to minimise interactions and wash your hands afterwards. We do not recommend keeping a cat inside who is used to going out as this may cause stress and potentially serious health problems.

What do I do if my pet is unwell?

If your pet is poorly or you have any concerns about their health, please phone your vet for advice. It is important not to take them to the practice unless you are told to do so. If your vet is not open, then you should see if there is a message online or phone the practice and see if there is information on the answerphone advising them where to go. If these options do not work, you can use the online RCVS “find a vet” tool. Please note that vets have been advised to provide emergency care only, so please be understanding of these limitations.

How to keep your dog entertained during the lockdown?

Mental stimulation is a great way to keep your dog entertained and occupied, so you can keep your dog happy by replacing exercise with other activities until you are able to take them back out for their usual walks.

Try challenging your pooch at tea time – ditch the food bowl and feed Fido using a Kong or a food puzzle to get them thinking.  Play, play, play! Most dogs love to play, so set aside some time to have a good game of fetch or tug with your pooch.  Learning a new trick or command is great mental stimulation for a dog. Get out their favourite treats and try teaching your dog how to wave his paw, ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ or ‘roll-over’.

Get him sniffing – scent work can be a great way to keep them busy for ages! Hide treats around the garden or around the house and send them off in search of them. If you feed your dog kibble, this can be a great way to serve them their meals!

Remember toilet breaks – remember your dog will still need to go outside to use the toilet, so make sure they get regular access to the garden to potter, sniff and wee.

Spotify has recently launched ‘My Dog’s Favourite Podcast’ which has a range of carefully selected spoken word, sound and original music designed to encourage relaxation.

How to keep your cat entertained during the lockdown?

  • Provide a litter tray in a quiet place; clean it regularly. Cats are often reluctant to use a dirty tray or one located in a busy area.
  • Ensure your cat has enough space. Indoor-only cats should have access to several rooms.
  • Allow your cat access to a minimum of two types of resting places, one at floor level, enclosed on three sides and another higher one with a good view – this should be safe for your cat to access.
  • Provide scratching posts in several locations so they can mark territory, strengthen muscles and sharpen claws.
  • Provide opportunities for daily exercise to stay fit and healthy.
  • Provide/create new ways for your cat to stay active, both physically and mentally. Cats can become frustrated and bored with indoor-only lifestyles.
  • As your cat won’t have the freedom to interact with people/other animals outside, you become their main companion; make plenty of time to interact.
  • You shouldn’t leave cats alone for long periods during the day.

Are there any dog walking services available and can they continue?

If you do want to walk someone else’s dog then please follow the guidance provided in this dog walking leaflet here

Although there is no evidence that pets can spread the disease, we would advise avoiding contact with other people’s pets.

The following community organisations can also offer support for dog walking/pet care:

  • Age UK York – Keep Your Pet Service

Age UK York and the RSPCA York Branch have been working in partnership to offer help to older and vulnerable pet owners, aged 18+, to care for their pets.

This service, which includes dog walking, taking an animal to the Vet, and short term fostering is still functioning as usual through the COVID-19 crisis. The service also offers pet food delivery.

All the volunteers working for the service are exercising social distancing rules and use their own leads for walking dogs.

  • Home Care –Home Care Instead Senior Care

This organisation provides care across the City of York. Services provided include all aspects of personal care, companionship, housekeeping and Dementia care, including Alzheimer’s. If clients do have a pet then support will be provided to care for their needs, such as feeding and walking. They don’t provide pet care as a stand-alone service. The service is operating as usual during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Sunshine – Independence, Support and Social Assistance

This provider is a sole trader who provides support as a micro-provider of personal care. The provider works with vulnerable and isolated individuals and supports them to navigate systems to get the support they need. If the client has a pet then support will be provided, either directly or by putting them in touch with other organisations in the system that can help.

  • The Cinnamon Trust

This is a National Charity for the elderly aged 65+, the terminally ill and their pets. The primary aim of the organisation is to keep people and their pets together, by assisting with pet related tasks such as dog walking, pet care and short term fostering. Provision of longer term care is also provided for pets whose owners have died or moved into residential accommodation that will not accept pets.

  • York Personal Support – Personal Assistants

This organisation specialises in providing professional personal assistants to adults and adults and students with disabilities, including physical disabilities, mental health issues and learning difficulties.

If the client already has a pet then the service will provide dog walking, feeding and general care as part of the overall care package.

  • Next door Neighbourhood App

As part of this work, several members of the volunteer coordination Team accessed and registered on this App. Registration on the App gives access to an interactive map which shows offers that are being posted for a variety of volunteering activities. This does include offers of dog walking in suburbs across York, which at this stage include, Leeman Road, Rawcliffe, Chapelfields and Holgate. These offers are made by individuals living in the Community in those suburbs.