In Canada we are fortunate to experience the changing of the seasons, each displaying its own unique character. Currently we find ourselves in the fall season. The shortening of the days is balanced by the brilliance of the fall colours. The harvesting of the summer crops brings forth a feeling of gratitude and bliss. The warmth of the summer sun is slowly replaced by crisp temperatures as we exchange shorts for pants and short sleeves for sweaters.
Fall also represents the return of routine. The return of school for many parents dictates a routine of lessons, practices, and school filling both the weekdays and weekends. The lazy days of summer have passed, replaced by a more hectic schedule. Your children understand this change because, for the most part, it is their activities that are driving the change. But for the animals who live with you this change in routine can be challenging. Your animals embrace routine in order to feel safe, cared for, and secure. For this blog I will focus on cats and dogs, however, routine is important for all animals. The fish in my aquarium are very aware of mealtime.
According to The Conscious Cat by Ingrid King cats thrive on routine. Cats tend to be territorial, creatures of habit, and they craft their patterns around your schedule. Disrupting or changing your routine can stress your cat in a way that could affect their physical health. Researchers at the Ohio State University have linked a change in routine to cat health. They discovered that healthy cats, reacting to stress, were sick 1.9 times a week.
Like cats, dogs are habitual in nature. They thrive on the consistency of their person’s routine. Dogs, out of routine, can demonstrate destructive behaviour, separation anxiety, anxiousness, and depression.
For your sanity and the health of your animals, the best option is to keep their routine as consistent as possible. If changes must be made, do your best to introduce the change gradually. We live such busy lives that change and disruption are part of our everyday lives, but for our animals we are their world.
Just as we rise and retire at a fairly consistent time, animals do as well. Keeping them on a regular routine will help them to settle easier at night.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep feeding times regular. Not only does this help to establish a regular routine but is also aids in your animals’ metabolism and digestion. Both cats and dogs become very familiar with mealtime. If you must leave early or come home late arrange for someone to come and feed your animal at their regular time.
- Dogs especially look forward to their playtime or daily walk. It is not only good for your dog’s wellbeing but you will benefit from the exercise and fresh air as well.
- Cats are very particular about their litter box cleanliness and this should be incorporated into your regular routine. An adult dog should be allowed to relieve themselves at least every 6 – 8 hours. A puppy can only go for a short period of time between bathroom breaks. If you are not able to be home please ensure that someone can let your dog or puppy outside.
- If you must make a change in your routine it is best to introduce it slowly. Start introducing the change in routine a few weeks before the actual implementation. This applies to feedings, walking, and bedtime routines.
Animals have a very sensitive internal clock. The change of the sun’s patterns can be stressful, without the fall back of daylight savings time. Try adapting to the upcoming clock change by 15 minute intervals so that when you “fall back” they don’t experience the change suddenly.
Slight changes in our day are not only regular events but we have an explanation for them. We know why we are rushing out the door – we slept in. We know why we are getting home late – the project ran late. We understand why they were fed late – we had a flat tire on the way home. They are small adjustments to our daily schedule and we know why they happened. But for your animal, waiting for you to walk through the door at your regular time, stress begins to build. It is best to have a backup plan in order to keep your household running smoothly.
Don’t forget that in the spring not only are the days longer, but your clock will “spring ahead” and your animal will begin yet another adjustment.