Are you a stressed-out pet owner? You’re not alone. Here are some resources that can help.
We love our pets. They enrich our lives and we consider them members of our family. Science has proven that animals can boost our mood, increase feelings of social support, and reduce loneliness. However, the rewards of having an animal companion are also met with concerns about pet expenses, having time to care for an animal, and access to adequate veterinary care. These concerns are amplified in our most vulnerable communities and among those dealing with the economic impact of COVID-19.
The team at Hello Ralphie recently surveyed 500 cat and dog owners with pets older than the age of two. The survey was conducted to better understand how pet owners are managing responsibilities of pet ownership, recognize the biggest challenges facing them today, and present resources to keep pet families safe, happy, and together.
Results from our survey revealed that almost one in five pet owners considered finding a new home for their pet at some point during the pandemic. This may seem surprising to any animal lover, but keep in mind that while nearly 20% of pet owners considered rehoming their animal at some point, only 6% took action to do so.
The one in five statistic does not reflect intent but rather is a strong indicator of the stress experienced by pet owners today.
When asked what was particularly stressful, owners responded that pet expenses, finding pet care, managing their pet’s health or behavioral issues, and their living environment were among the top concerns.
We reached out across our non-profit networks, pet brand partners, and pet parent community to gather helpful resources for those dealing with these stressors.
Help With Pet Expenses
Animal companionship has an enormous impact on our lives- especially the lives of our most vulnerable communities. For some owners, being able to provide the basic necessities for their pets has been difficult. Fortunately, there are programs specifically designed to help owners keep and care for their pet companions. Here are some that we know and love.
Most local humane societies and SPCA chapters offer affordable pet vaccination shots, among other veterinary services. Contact information for local chapters can be found with a quick online search of ‘humane society near me’ or ‘SPCA near me’. Humane Society’s website also includes a list of helpful resources for pet owners struggling with pet expenses, including vaccine costs.
Meals on Wheels recently expanded its pet services through a partnership with PetSmart Charities. The initiative supports both seniors and their pets by delivering pet meals for the elderly that cannot make it to the vet or store to purchase food.
With an AARP membership, seniors qualify for discounted comprehensive pet insurance that covers veterinary costs that most insurance plans do not: telehealth, dental care, breed-specific conditions, and holistic care.
There are a handful of local nonprofits dedicated to helping seniors and those with fixed incomes. While there is no central list of all these organizations, many can be found by searching online. A couple of our favorites include PAWS NY and SPAN.
PAWS NY serves New York City’s most vulnerable residents by delivering critical programs and services that help them remain with their pets at home. Specifically, home visit services include dog walking, litter maintenance, administering medication, and feeding and watering.
Across Dallas County, TX, SPAN is helping senior pet owners with financial assistance for basic veterinary costs and delivers pet food right to their client’s door from a local pet food pantry.
Pet food pantries and pet food banks are available in many locations nationwide. Pet owners can find a community pet food pantry in their state by searching CoFund My Pet’s database.
VCA Charities’ Pet Food Pantry (PFP) program has locations across the U.S. In partnership with Hill’s Pet Nutrition, they provide 40,000 lbs of pet food or roughly 300,000 meals every year.
Military service may require members to relocate domestically. While the government pays for most of those moving costs, pet relocation is not typically covered. SPCAI’s Military Pets Program was started to address this gap by covering costs and providing resources for servicemen and women relocating with their pets.
Dog on Deployment offers boarding assistance for deployed pet owners and grants available to cover costs of emergency pet care, spay and neuter surgeries, and travel costs associated with change of station.
Pet Care When You're Away
57% of pet owners surveyed did not leave home this summer to work during the pandemic. With vaccination rates rising, more pet owners are leaving home to work- as many as 75% expect to return on-site or go back to an office. And many are also considering travel in the near future. Finding pet care is a big concern among stressed-out pet owners, but flexible and affordable care options are available.
Whether it’s a quick feeding, a dog walk, or longer-term care that’s needed, there are a handful of helpful products, resources, and pet care platforms for pet owners who plan to spend less time at home.
Rover’s on-demand platform connects pet owners to nearby pet sitters and dog walkers. Pet owners can read through pet caregiver profiles and client reviews to find someone that suits their pet’s needs.
Trusted House Sitters is an alternative to pet boarding while owners are away for an extended time. The pet can stay in the comfort of their own home while someone looks after the property and tends to their care.
Pethotels is a nationwide database of short-term and long-term boarding facilities for both cats and dogs. Pet owners can simply type in their location to find boarding options nearby.
Dog and cat tracking collars can be a great way to keep tabs on your pet’s location- especially if they’re known to be ‘escape artists’ or wander from home for lengths at a time. Jiobit is a lightweight tracker that clips right onto existing collars. It uses cellular, GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi tech to track an animal’s movement, and pet owners can monitor their animal in real-time through their mobile app.
Another tech product that can help keep your dog safe and entertained while you’re away from home is a treat-tossing pet camera. Pet owners can see (and talk to) their dogs and toss treats remotely from the product’s mobile app. Several of these types of products are on the market, but we love Furbo’s all-in-one camera.
For pet owners opting to travel with their pets, we recommend researching cat and dog-friendly stays and activities at your destination and any stops along the way.
BringFido’s travel directory features both outdoor and indoor adventures that are perfect for canine companions. A comprehensive list of dog-friendly hotels and restaurants can help travelers plan their vacation without worrying about leaving their pet behind or finding care.
Go Pet Friendly has put together a list of cat-friendly hotel chains for feline travelers. Some of these hotel chains have locations worldwide, and their pet policies may differ by location. Be sure to review each location’s pet policy and pet guidelines before booking your stay.
Booking a stay at an Airbnb can also be a great option when traveling with animals. The platform includes a large number of pet-friendly stays, and some hosts even go above and beyond by providing treats, bedding, and play areas for pets.
Addressing Pet Behavior Issues
Exposure training and socializing are necessary to prepare pets to handle otherwise stressful situations and interactions. Opportunities for this kind of training dropped drastically while pet owners sheltered in place during the pandemic. While our pets may have been happy with the extra attention, regular distance between owner and pet can help combat behavioral issues associated with separation anxiety.
For owners facing separation-induced anxiety or who need help finding ways to socialize their dogs, these are some highly reviewed products and services that may help.
Stimulation and interaction can be key to mitigating pet stress. Keeping a dog’s mind active can distract from destructive behaviors, reduce stress, and tire them out. There are many pet products designed for this kind of healthy stimulation, including puzzle toys, lick mats, interactive pet cams, snuffle mats- the list goes on. TechnoBark has put together detailed reviews of some of the newer electronic and interactive dog toys on the market.
The pet market is exploding, and we see more and more products designed to address anxiety and make pets feel more secure and comfortable. Calming collars, compression jackets, cozy beds, and pheromones are all being used by pet parents to manage their dog’s stress.
Calming treats can also offer both owners and dogs some reprieve from pet anxiety. Dope Dog’s soothing CBD treats, oil droppers, and shampoos are 100% non-psychoactive and THC-free.
Certain music has been shown to calm dogs and also help mask triggering noises. Low-tempo music like classical, soft rock, and even talk radio can help soothe anxious pups. Relax My Dog and iCalmpet both play music bioacoustically designed to appeal to a dog or cat’s sense of hearing.
Dog trainers recommend that a puppy meet 100 different people by the age of 12 weeks. That may have seemed an impossible feat for new pet owners in quarantine, but it does go to show how important socialization is in a dog’s cognitive and behavioral development. Preventative Vet has created an app for pet owners to track some of these critical milestones in the socialization of their pups.
BringFido’s platform is a good tool for locating dog parks and beaches that are close by. For dogs beginning their socialization journey or continuing to learn social manners, fenced-in areas are best. Many parks also offer separate areas for more timid or smaller dogs.
For pet owners that want more control over their dog’s socialization, Meetup offers a way to find and connect with other like-minded pet owners nearby.
Managing Your Pet's Health
1 in 3 pet owners report that managing their pet’s health is a primary concern. This includes navigating limited access to veterinarians and longer-than-usual clinic and emergency wait times. Vet burnout and a surge in demand for veterinary care driven by the pandemic pet boom have contributed to a shortage in many cities.
Here are some products that can help reduce the stress of managing a pet’s health and access a veterinary professional whenever needed.
Having access to veterinary care is vital. However, most of what goes into managing our animal companions’ health happens outside of veterinarian appointments. These resources and products can help prevent, monitor, and manage pet health issues.
Pawprint’s medical tracking app allows owners to access their pet’s medical records and track scheduled vet appointments, treatment history, and vaccine schedules. Owners can also add others to view their pet’s history, particularly valuable for new caregivers or pet sitters. This tool also allows users to set reminders for important things like medication and grooming.
A lot of owners question whether pet health insurance is worth the investment. A general rule of thumb is that if you do not have an extra $5,000 or more set aside for a pet emergency, paying a smaller monthly premium is a safe way to make sure unexpected pet healthcare costs are covered. These guides were created to help pet owners choose what option is best for them.
Housing insecurity, although not new, has been exacerbated by the pandemic. As pandemic-related eviction restrictions are lifted, many pet owners will be looking for new pet-friendly housing. For those that are facing relocation or homelessness, there are programs available to find short-term and long-term housing.
Knowing your rights as a tenant is the first step in preparing for or responding to an eviction. Apartment Guide has put together this interactive map to help renters in each state understand local housing protection programs.
Keeping Pet Families Together
Hello Ralphie’s mission is to make veterinary care stress-free and accessible for all pet families. The rescues we support and the pet brands we partner with all share a common focus on pet health and safety.
A very big part of keeping pet families together involves supporting pet parents by educating and creating greater access to resources. If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, click on any one of the organizations below.