In their latest Pet Care Column, The PDSA offer advice on how to maintain your pet’s mental health.
For humans, mental health is something that we are able to help boost with regular exercise and a good balanced diet. This can also be the case for our pets, who can suffer from the blues too.
Whether a cat, dog or rabbit, there are guidelines we can follow and behaviours we can look out for to ensure our pet continues to feel happy. For dogs, isolation can be a problem as they are naturally pack animals who like the company of others.
PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan, says: “Findings from our 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report indicates a quarter of UK dogs are left alone for five hours or more on a typical weekday. Separation anxiety is an extreme reaction to being left alone and can include scratching, destructive behaviour, barking or howling for more than five minutes, and toileting in the house. Owners of 623,000 of UK’s dogs (7%) wanted to change their dog’s behaviour when they showed these signs of distress when left alone.”
The PDSA advise that regular walks and playtime with your dog will help to decrease boredom and adult dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Longer is typically better, though this will be affected by age, breed and health. Giving your dog plenty to do, such as puzzle feeders and playing lots of games, will help keep them mentally healthy.
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits don’t like living alone either and isolation can impact heavily on their mental health.
Olivia added: “Companionship is really important to bunnies, but sadly half of all pet rabbits in the UK are kept alone. Finding the perfect pal for your rabbit and then bonding the bunnies is well worth it to ensure that they are happy.
“Rabbits, just like cats and dogs, can display unwanted behaviours if they don’t have their needs met. They need to run, hide, chew and dig and will do this in inappropriate places if they aren’t given the right resources, including plenty of hay, chewy toys, space to run, shelter and a dog box.”
Whereas rabbits thrive with the company of their own kind, cats enjoy a more solitary life. Generally, cats do not live well with other cats, unless they are related and raised together. The stress of having to share with other cats can cause a decline in their mental health.
Aggression towards other cats and people, spraying urine, scratching carpets and begging for food should raise alarm bells for owners. But many cats will silently cope with less than idea situations, so prevention is better than cure.
Olivia advises: “To help alleviate stress in multiple-cat households, you need to have multiple resources around the home, so each cat can have their own space. As a rule of thumb, you need one of every resource for each of your cats, plus an extra
“So, if you have two cats you need at least three litter trays, food bowls, scratching posts, beds, high places, and water bowls; if you have three cats you need four of each.”
PDSA advise that any sudden change in behaviour can also be a sign of a medical issue and if you’re worried about any changes, your vet will be able to offer further advice.
For more information on the work of the PDSA you can visit www.pdsa.org.uk.