Is your pet behaving differently during lockdown?

Published: 8th Jun 2020

If you’ve noticed that some of us are going ga-ga during the lockdown, spare a thought to your pets.

At a time when behaviour patterns can be inconsistent, mind-shatteringly mundane or just plain bizarre, take a close at your pet. Models Direct has spent time researching animal lockdown anecdotes and has observed several documentation on social media posts that could be consistent with your pet’s behaviour. Do these ring any bells? If so, you’re not alone. 

As you’ll probably know, a lot of animals react to different environments and routines. Dogs and cats, in particular, trust their owners and enjoy a fairly steady routine – dogs more so than the more free-natured felines. In the past two months, their routine has been turned inside out. Though the lockdown won’t present a change as drastic as that for humans, don’t underestimate how these strange times can influence your pet’s behaviour. 

Models Direct Cat in Felix advertising

Lockdown changes that dogs may experience can be numerous. Studies both in the UK and the USA have suggested that a process called “emotional contagion” applies to both dogs and cats. Simply, this is where animals display stress when their owners do. It seems that human behaviour does have an effect on animals, especially when they’re both “cooped up”. Owners could be giving their pets more hugs, more walks and more general attention. The best advice for pet owners is to go about daily activities as normal as possible, giving pets less reason to suspect something is amiss. 

Displacement behaviours will be observed by thousands of owners around the world. These behaviours occur when animals detect an abnormal stress or conflict, and adapt in an unusual manner. Such out-of-context behaviour is perfectly natural, and can be seen in several species. Horses, for example, might gum their mouths or bray in an unusual way. A bird could suddenly engage in unnatural pecking or exaggerated preening of its feathers. It’s simply a response to “cope” with perceived stress. 

On a more domestic level, displacement behaviour in dogs is easier to observe. Your canine may scratch more, shake their fur when it’s not wet, lick their lips or self-groom. Yawning is also a sign of combating stress; observations in dogs reveal that it may just be an easy method to relieve stress, as yawning increases air circulation and can help with cooling the brain. In humans, the theory is that yawning increases oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output when the body needs it – often when a person is tired. 

But animals don’t know there’s a lockdown, right? Maybe so, but they are quick to pick up on human attention and to realise when there’s a disruption in routine. Though a lot of pets will welcome the additional attention, the lockdown represents a shift in normal life, just like humans. There are reports of cats hissing, running into walls and bouncing off them – not usual behaviour by any standards, but it’s a safe bet that the lockdown is a contributing factor. Some dogs simply refuse to venture outside, preferring instead to stay indoors. Other small breeds choose to lay in their owners laps for an abnormally long time.   

Models Direct Dog model on set

So if you’ve observed some recent strange behaviours in your pet, don’t panic and try to get some rhythm going during the lockdown. It won’t last forever, and your pet’s behaviour is merely on par with a human playing with their hair or gnawing at fingernails. It’s not ideal, but it’s understandable. The general advice from experts is to maintain consistent feeding times, keep calm, enjoy your pets, and wait for the lockdown to end. Your pet is looking forward to it just as much as you are. 

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