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The Pandemic Pet Baby Boom!

First Time Pet Parents Are On The Rise - Is It A Good Thing Or A Cause For Concern?

As someone who has actively advocated the joys and benefits of having a dog or a cat, it is strange that I am now skeptical about people getting a pet.

In the last 4-5 months, many people I know have become pet parents for the first time. Even in the apartment complex that I live in, we have seen an unprecedented increase – 30+ furry babies (approximately 65% increase) in the last couple of months! I myself became a pet parent for the second time in May this year. While on one hand I am joyous to see the pups around, I also know that some of the new parents are the ones who were never fond of pets. This got me wondering and I spoke to a few of them to understand how and why the transition happened.

What I gathered from the different chats I had with new pet parents was that many have got pets because of pressure from kids, spouses or because they wanted to do something new. Some now have the time on hand due to this pandemic and lockdown situation and so they decided to get a pet.

During my visit to the vet, I chatted about this situation with him. My vet also expressed concern about this unprecedented increase and said he has heard of a similar trend from his other colleagues as well. We got to discussing about the pros and cons – and then I decided to just put down my thoughts on the matter and share it in the hope that it can help prospective pet parents.

The idea is not to put off people from getting a pet but to help them understand what the journey entails. This, I hope, will help address the issue of pet-abandonment which will surely come up in the future months, once life gets back to normal.

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Tips To Prospective Pet Parents: Don’t Get A Pet…

…If you are bored or have a lot of time on your hands now due to the Covid-19 situation.

The average life span of a dog or a cat is between 12-15 years. So be prepared for this when you are considering getting a pet. Life will move back to normal in a few months – so plan for that time as well and not for only the current time when you are relatively free.

…If you want a temporary distraction and plan to give it up later.

If you want some distraction temporarily, baby-sit your friend’s pet or foster one from an NGO for a temporary period of time. It would be unfair and inhuman to get a pet now and give it up later if you already know that you are looking for something temporary.

…If your partner /kids have always wanted a pet and are pestering you now.

Introspect and ask if you can see yourself accepting the pet 100%. If yes, you are ready to be a pet parent! If not, don’t give in – it is better to not get one than to get one and not love it completely.

…Because your friend got one.

Having a pet is not a status symbol. Remember, you are bringing home a new family member and not a toy or a piece of furniture. Your friend may be a pet-friendly person, but you may not be. Liking a friend’s pet and taking on full time responsibility are completely different things.

…Because you found someone’s pup “adorable”.

You are seeing the pup for only a limited period of time. The antics may be adorable for that little time – but rest assured they will continue full time if you are a pet parent and do not train your pet. Also, pups eventually grow up to become adult dogs.

…If you are even a little unsure.

If you are not sure, baby-sit a friend’s pet or foster. This will give you an idea if you are a dog-person or a cat-person or even if you can handle pets. Once you know where you stand, you can make you final decision.

…If you are likely to move to a different city soon.

Pets are family members and get attached to you very soon. So if you plan on making a move to a different city or country, think about the logistics of moving along with your pet. This is especially true for students living alone who adopt in all good faith, but are unable to continue when they move back home or to a different city when they find a job.

…If you live in a family / community that is not pet friendly.

You may love pets but your parents or partner or kids may not. Respect their sentiments. Try to win them over to your side – get a pet only when you have their consent. If you have kids who are ‘scared’ of pets, take time to explain to them and get them to be comfortable. Raising a dog or a cat involves the family too.

…If you are unwilling to invest your time, love and money.

Last but not the least. Pets give you unconditional love. And they need your love too. Remember, you have various forms of entertainment but for your pet, you are its entire world. Be willing to spend the required time with your pets. Don’t leave them alone for long hours. Be willing to walk them as they need regular exercise for their physical and mental health. Raising a pet means you need to invest in good food, regular visits to the vet, periodic vaccinations, appropriate toys etc. While you have various options – be willing to spend some money.

To First-Time & Prospective Pet Parents : Tips To Enjoy Your World Of Unconditional Love!

Bringing home a puppy or kitten

With this sudden spike in demand for pets, many breeders are not following ethical practices and are giving away the pups at a very young age. Ideal weaning time for a pup to be separated from its mother is approximately 90 days. Ensure atleast 50 days before you get the young one home. This is important for building its immunity & emotional stability and to avoid separation anxiety.

Once you have decided to bring in a puppy or kitten, ensure you put away things that can be destroyed, beyond reach. Young pups and kittens love to explore and bite / destroy stuff. So go around your house and ensure there are no wires, knick-knacks, footwear etc that the pet may find attractive.

Also start by slowly introducing small areas of the house, one at a time so that he familiarises himself and gets comfortable. You could also restrict access to areas that you don’t want the pet to enter. This will also help in toilet training.

Toilet training

Be it a litter box for your kitten or a toilet tray for your puppy, start from when they come home to make life easier for both of you. While one-off ‘accidents’ can continue to happen in some cases upto 6 months or even a year, most pets should be toilet trained in about 2 months after they are brought home.

When toilet training your kitten, don’t allow him access to the full house initially. Place the litter tray in the area that you want him to ‘go’. In the beginning, just after he has woken up or once you have given him his feed, place him in the litter-tray and wait patiently till he finishes his business. Cats usually dig and hide their poop. In case your kitten doesn’t do it initially, you could show him by gently by holding his paw and digging the mud. They will soon get a hang of it. After the ‘job’ is done, praise them or give them treats. Once this routine is set for a few days, they will start going to the tray on their own.

For toilet training your pup, you have to do this twice. Once indoors and once outdoor. For indoor training, you could use newspapers spread out in the area that you want him to use. You also have options of placing a toilet tray or pee pads. You could select a bathroom or a balcony to place these. Take him to this area as soon as he wakes up and after his feeds. Wait till he finishes the job and praise or reward him once he finishes. After a few days, they will start going to the place on their own. Once you start taking him for walks, don’t expect to pee or poop outdoors immediately. It will take some time to for them to make the transition. Try to take them out at set times, preferably after food. Wait patiently for them to do their ‘job’, but don’t be disheartened if they do go outside. Again, praise them and give them treats when they make the transition. And don’t forget to clean up after your dog and dispose correctly as per guidelines to avoid health complications to both humans and pets. It is always advisable to continue to have the space indoors too for emergencies like a rainy day or if you come under quarantine due to this pandemic.

Being assertive is the key

Learn to say NO. Don’t fall for their sad eyes and adorable faces. As a parent you are responsible for their emotional and physical well-being. So learn to say NO firmly. This can include biting, destroying things, begging, stealing food, access to furniture etc. Train them young to avoid problems as they grow up.

Regular Vet Visits

The vaccinations are important to build your pet’s immunity and keep it free from viruses. Ensure you meet the vet within a couple of days after you get the pup / kitten and follow the vaccination schedule suggested by him till the entire course is completed.

Patience pays

Every pup is different. Some may take time to get toilet trained. Others may take time to understand what you want them to do. Don’t lose your patience with them. And don’t forget, you yourself are a first-time parent. So you may take time to understand what your pup is trying to tell you. Be prepared for surprises!

Do things together

How you bond with your pet will define what kind of relationship you will have with them. Do things with them – like going for walks, setting aside time to play etc. While each parenting style would be different, avoid harsh punishments or physical abuse. Do not tie up your pup or leave them alone for long hours. Instead train them to not use the areas you want to restrict access to (on furniture, specific rooms etc). They can also be taught to stay alone for some time when you need to step outside. This will ensure that they do not destroy things when left alone or cry due to anxiety.

Watch out for signs

Young pets tend to pick up everything and nibble on it – grass, plants, plastic, paper etc. Some of it could cause indigestion and other health issues. So keep an eye out for this, especially when they are on walks. When you take them for regular vaccinations, keep an eye out for fever or bumps due to the injection, as some young one are known to get these reactions. Young pups are prone to infections – look of for signs that they are unwell like change in food intake, lethargy etc. There is no need to panic. But if in doubt, always visit the vet.

Read up, research, talk to other pet parents

Finally, embrace this journey of pet parenthood. No one masters it in a day, week or month. It is a new adventure every day for the rest of your lives. Talk to your family or friends who have pets, join pet communities to set up play dates, join support groups to know what other parents are talking about, read up on the internet or even discuss with your vet to know what to expect and how you can enjoy the experience!

Happy Pet Parenting!

Did you find these tips useful? Do share your views & tips on pet parenting and help others enjoy this amazing journey!

Are we unnecessarily spreading the fear of Coronavirus on Social Media?

Social Media in the times of the Coronavirus crisis

There will be very few people in the world currently who are not aware of the words “Novel Coronavirus” or COVID-19. The world is currently reeling under the COVID-19 threat. India too is now seeing cases on the rise. It has reached such a stage that a simple act of sneezing or coughing can instill fear and suspicion amongst people.

What is COVID-19

As World Health Organisation mentions in its site (https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus) Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS. The COVID-19 is a new strain of the virus that has not been previously identified in humans.  Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people.  However, we do have many known coronaviruses that are identified in animals and have not yet infected humans.

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 has now caused the World Health Organisation (WHO) to term it as a Pandemic (an outbreak of the disease that affects the world at large).

Role of Social Media in times of crisis

In the current times, we use social media extensively.  People around you are always sharing messages, reading stuff, liking, posting pictures or stories, etc. Earlier, we mainly relied on newspapers, television and radio for information. With the widespread accessibility of the internet, we now generally use the same to share information online. Social Media has become an important platform for online communication. Using channels like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc., messages are sent from one person to another and thus they become ‘viral’.  It has become an easy, cost-effective and fast way to pass on information. With its growing popularity, Social Media has become a powerful tool to influence people and affect their thoughts and actions.

Advantages of sharing messages online in times of the COVID

  • As an online information sharing platform, it has the power to reach millions in a couple of seconds. Hence, it is fast becoming the most preferred medium for online communication.

Social Media has its advantages as it has helped the government and health organizations to pass on important information on symptoms, cure and precautions to be taken. This has helped contain the spread of the virus to a large extent.

It allows us to track the spread of the virus globally. You can get real-time updates of lockdowns, airport closures, designated help centers, etc.

It has worked as a support system for people seeking clarification, battling panic and has provided emotional support in many cases. It has also helped people find authorized hospitals in times of need.

Students can complete studies online and in some cases even take exams. Educational institutions use many internet platforms to keep students and parents updated and stay connected. This has ensured that there is no loss of time for the students. This is true for the working population also. The option to work remotely minimizes the risk of contamination while ensuring that work can go on and the economy doesn’t suffer much.

The negative aspects of Social Media in times of crisis

There can be too much of a good thing also. This is so true for sharing messages online. For the last couple of months, every day I wake up to at least 10 new messages or forwards or shares on my Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter accounts that are related to Coronavirus. Some are informative, many are repetitive and then there is the lot that is just fake or spreads panic.

For instance, when the Coronavirus outbreak news was still new, there was a story doing the rounds on WhatsApp about it being spread via chickens and later it was found that it could be swine flu and not COVID-19.

Recently, we had an instance of a message posted on WhatsApp which provided no clarity but created panic about possible contamination in the neighborhood. By the time investigations were done and it was found to be a false alarm, there was utter panic among the residents for most of the day. The one incomplete message was picked up and shared amongst many groups, causing chaos and leading to unsolicited and impractical advice.

The current unavailability of hand sanitizers can also be attributed to social media. Of course, there has been a sudden increase in demand which the suppliers are not able to meet. But because of the panic created, some people have gone overboard stocking up on sanitizers, leaving none for others.

Little things we can do to ensure that we use Social Media responsibly

The words from Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility” are very apt for Social Media users. It is a powerful medium when used wisely, but can cause havoc and damage if used inappropriately. Here are some things we can follow to ensure Social Media responsibility.

  • Every day, you get ‘news updates’ of the current status of the Coronavirus spread. Think before you share, like or forward.
  • Breaking news of deaths, lockdowns, COVID-19 cures, etc are sometimes started by anti-social elements to cause panic amongst people. When you come across such news, please verify with the source if possible. If that is not always possible, use the internet to check if the information is correct before you pass it along. There are many sites on the internet that you can check for fake news.
  • Avoid repeated and contradictory forwards. It just confuses people and when there is an overload of messages, people just tend to scroll through without actually reading. Important information may be lost in all the unnecessary forwards.
  • We can also add insensitive jokes or comments to the above list. Apart from adding to the unnecessary noise on Social Media, it may adversely affect the people who are targeted or impacted.
  • If you have a query or feel compelled to share some thoughts / doubts, please do that in a one-on-one chat. Avoid posting such things in an open group or platform. Else, the chances of misinterpretations are higher. Also, people may not even wait for confirmation of the news and could just share it forward, leading to more chaos.
  • Your responsibility doesn’t end at just sharing or forwarding a message. You are responsible for what you post or share. So think twice before you post.

 

COVID-19 Symptoms to look out for

The symptoms begin gradually and sometimes go undetected for a couple of weeks. In a few cases, infected people don’t develop the symptoms at all. Protect yourself by seeking timely medical help, if required.

  • Symptoms include fever, tiredness and dry cough
  • In some cases, patients may experience pains, stuffy or runny nose and sore throat
  • In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
  • Older people and people with other medical conditions are more prone to developing serious illness.
  • Seek immediate medical help if you have any of the symptoms.

 

Tips to protect yourself and others from the risk of COVID-19 contamination

  • As per WHO, basic hand hygiene goes a long way in helping to combat the spread. These include washing hands regularly with soap and water (or using a sanitizer if soap and water are not accessible) and maintaining respiratory hygiene such as sneezing into your elbow. (Sneezing into your elbow is recommended as it ensures that the germs are not spread further as compared to sneezing into your palms. You use the same palms to touch people and objects and end up spreading the germs).
  • If you are coming in contact with animals, ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face, nose or mouth.
  • Ensure you cook your meat and eggs thoroughly before consuming it.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet between yourself and anybody who is sneezing / coughing. This is to avoid breathing in the virus through small almost invisible droplets that a person emits when they sneeze or cough.
  • Avoid close contact with others if you have a fever or are coughing / sneezing.
  • Avoid spitting in public.
  • Share travel history if you have been to any of the affected countries.
  • Stay informed with the latest updates and ensure you follow all government-issued guidelines.

Please note, information & COVID-19 images have been sourced from the WHO website.

Photo by Cristian Dina from Pexels