ANIMAL ANXIETY: UK’S PETS FEELING OUR STRESS

At this time of continued uncertainty, the nation’s dogs are likely to be struggling with anxiety picked up from their human pet parents, according to animal mental health expert, Dr. Robert Falconer-Taylor and Itch.

Dogs make amazing companions because they are so good at observing changes in their human’s behaviour and ‘tuning in’ to their emotions. However, this also means a worried or anxious owner can exacerbate similar emotions in their pets.

To combat this, Itch Pet, the monthly flea treatment subscription service, has teamed up with Dr. Falconer-Taylor to develop a specially designed ‘Comfort Cave’ to help pets feel safe and secure in their homes.

While the rest of us have support networks, social bubbles and sofas to retreat to when we need some time out, our pets rely on us to help them feel safe and secure. Dr. Falconer-Taylor says: “A refuge can give your pet a sense of control over the source of their stress and enables them to feel safe. Pets without somewhere to retreat to can struggle, so building a den – or preferably, several dens – in the rooms where your pet likes to relax will help to support them.”

In addition to picking up on human anxiety, Bonfire Night will soon be upon us, meaning there is more reason than ever to create a safe space for your animals now – and in stages – which is key to ensure your pet uses it.

“Having a den in the home will enhance coping, not only reducing stress, but over time increasing confidence outside of the den, as well as in”, says Dr. Falconer-Taylor.

Itch and Dr. Falconer-Taylor have created a guide to building a simple pet den, which includes a range of techniques and steps, ensuring your pet uses it, and feels safe in it as we approach Bonfire Night:

  • Step 1: Finding the perfect spot. The owner needs to think about the animal’s behaviour. Where the den is located will be pivotal to whether our furry friends will use it or not
  • Step 2: Donate your duvet. Allowing our pets somewhere to burrow when it’s loud outside will help them cope and alleviate stress. The association of human smell will allow them to feel safe and supported too
  • Step 3: Engage with the reward system. Introducing food dispensing toys and treat toys will enhance positive association
  • Step 4: Engaging hormones and touch. Bringing cuddly toys and playing in the den will keep them calm and relaxed
  • Step 5: Practicalities. Thinking about where your dog is drinking from and where they’re eating in relation to the den, alongside his walking routine. It may be that an early feeding time is more appropriate during fireworks season

As well as offering subscription flea and worming treatments, Itch has developed a range of calming treats and supplements that can support your pet with their anxiety and mental health. The range has been designed with vets and scientists and contain probiotics, lavender, camomile, essential vitamins and minerals, which all aim to support cat and dog wellbeing.

Jonny Gould, Co-Founder at Itch says: “Many people across the country added a new furry friend to their family during lockdown, so it’s more important than ever for us to be supporting pet parents and helping them navigate pet ownership. Itch’s range of calming treats and supplements are expertly designed, helping alleviate stress and worry – a relief for both animal and owner.”

Through October, Itch is inviting pet parents to create their own dens within the home, using the guide, so that more pets in the UK have a safe hub to go during fireworks season and beyond. Animal lovers are invited to share their photos on the Itch Facebook page using the hashtag #MyItchDen to enter the competition.

The Itch Pet subscription is available from £6.50 per month from itchpet.com and is tailored to your pet. Through a series of questions, Itch identifies the best products bespoke for your furry friend, including flea and worm treatments, well-being treats and health supplements.

For more information on Itch and how to care for your pet, you can visit the blog here https://bit.ly/35tCOC4.