The world has never needed its puppies and kittens as much as it does now. No contact with other people or the outdoors has made fur babies the stars of every video conference, no matter how serious the discussion. Of course it’s that much harder caring for an animal that can’t get its exercise, meet its friends or go for a walk, and doesn’t even know why. Here are reminders on how to make the best of it.
Bust the myths: Instead of ignoring neighbours who seem convinced that your dog has the virus and is about to pass it on to everyone else, explain — ideally with the help of printouts of relevant information from the World Health Organization — that there is no evidence that pets can serve as a route for the spread of Covid-19.
Rajni Aggarwal, a pet parent in Delhi, says to protect her dog from stares and unkind comments, she now takes Poofu to a park a little further from her home. “If people won’t listen or believe, I’ll go the extra mile for Poofu. My mom is bedridden; Poofu does some mad thing or the other and entertains us. We don’t even need TV. So we three are doing fine.”
Give and get cuddles: “In tough times like these, our pets need as much love and compassion as we can give them, because they know something is wrong,” says Prerna Uppal, a marketing executive from Mumbai and parent to Czar, a 12-year-old Labrador. “It’s soothing for me to give extra attention to him and soothing for him to get it.”
Manilata, a Delhi-based researcher who goes by only one name, is at home with her cat, Lily. Her husband works in Patna. “Cuddling up with Lily is helping both of us,” she says. “Since animals, particularly cats, are sticklers for routine, I make an effort to keep to as much of her normal routine as possible, and that gives me structure too.”
Stay connected: Mani is part of the Facebook page, Fans of Cats, Delhi, and says this gives her a sense of community even in isolation. “We share recipes of what to cook for our pets, since there is no longer cat and dog food being delivered; we also discuss how to keep our pets safe from prejudice, fear and ignorance.”
Just a word of caution. “If you are coughing or sneezing with the regular flu, don’t be in close contact with your pets. They cannot spread Covid-19 but can contract other diseases,” says Delhi vet Dr Ranjeet Kharb.
The World Health Organization currently advises that there is no evidence to suggest that dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.
Dogs and cats had contracted low-level infections of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (or SARS) during the 2003 outbreak, but even they had not become sick or transmitted the virus to humans, health experts say.
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