Resources for Pet Families Affected by the Colorado Fire
This was an unprecedented event and both you and your pet are going through a lot right now. It's understandable that you and your pets may be exhausted, worried, anxious, and stressed. Be kind to yourselves.
While your bandwidth may be low right now, remember that this is a trauma for your pet, too. Right now, your goal is to do your best to create stability, provide outlets for your pet's stress, and empathize with them (while also caring for yourself!). Prepare yourself for the possibility that your pet may be reactive and have difficulty coping with new situations for the time being.
If your pet is behaving in a way that's out of the ordinary for them, give them some time and don't hesitate to reach out if we can assist.
Know that as local residents, this hits us especially hard and we're thinking of you.
If you are looking for Pet Grief Resources, please click HERE.
Helping Your Pet Adjust to New Housing
Whether you're staying with family/friends, in a hotel, or a rental, your pet may need a little help adjusting to the sudden changes. Here are some helpful tips for dogs and cats.
Setting Up a New Space
- Check the fit of your dog's collar and harness, so they won't slip out accidentally.
- Be careful around doors. If your dog is stressed, they may escape even if they never have before.
- Update your dog's tags and microchip information. Free replacement tags are available through Humane Society of Boulder Valley.
- Make sure your dog knows where water and food bowls are located.
- Show your dog the door used for bathroom breaks. Stop at the door every time you go out, to help teach your dog where to ask for a bathroom break.
- Add more bathroom breaks to overcome disruption and prevent accidents.
- Provide your dog a quiet space where they can spend time relaxing. It can be a corner of a hotel room, or place away from the activity center in an apartment. If your dog likes a crate, this can work well, but avoid crating if your dog finds it stressful.
- Allow your dog to have time alone if they choose. Ask family members to leave your dog alone when they're in their quiet space. Your dog may want time and space to decompress from stress.
Watch for Signs of Stress & Anxiety
Dogs who are stressed may exhibit behavior that is different from their normal life. They may:
- Follow you around, solicit more attention and snuggling.
- Be stressed or panicked when left alone, perhaps having accidents or being destructive.
- Spend more time alone and seek out quiet places.
- Be restless, pace, whine, bark, and have trouble settling.
- Act out by misbehaving, jumping on counters or people, stealing food or items, or hassling other pets in the home.
Try to comfort your pet and allow them to decompress naturally. Manage or intervene if other pets are being affected. If your dog's anxiety does not improve, consult your veterinarian to see if medications can help.
Consistent Routines & Exercise
- Keep a consistent walk, meal, and bedtime schedule as much as possible. Consistency will help your dog get into a new routine.
- Your dog may benefit from extra exercise or enrichment.
- Ask friends, family, or neighbors to walk or play with your dog, or take them for outings.
Behavior Changes & Issues
If your dog misbehaves, this may be a result of stress.
- Be patient and your dog's behavior may return more to normal over time.
- If your dog's housetraining breaks down, don't punish them. Add extra potty breaks and reward your dog for pottying in the correct location outdoors.
- Seek professional training help if your dog's behavior becomes too disruptive or does not improve over time.
- If you’ve moved into temporary housing, remember that moving house is very stressful for cats even at the best of times. Keep your cat confined to one room for the first few days or week, until they are clearly showing signs of having settled in. Make sure that room has everything they need in it.
- Even if you’re in a small space like a hotel room, try to arrange your cat’s resources so that the litter box, food, and water are all spread out and not next to each other.
- If your cat is used to going outdoors, keep them inside for now because they’ve just been through a very stressful time. Be careful to make sure your cat can’t escape when you are opening and closing doors.
- Being able to hide is important to cats, especially when they are stressed. If they like their carrier, let them use that as a hiding place. It’s easy to make little hiding places with a cardboard box (e.g. turn it upside down and cut an entrance hole, or position it with the opening close to a wall so they can squeeze in and be hidden). You can also drape a blanket or towel off a piece of furniture to make a little tent that your cat can hide in. Let them hide if they want to because it will help them to feel more secure.
- If you have something that smells of home, like your cat’s bed, put that out for them as they will find the smell comforting. They may also like to lay on clothing that you have worn as it will smell of you and they will find that reassuring. So you could put a worn tee-shirt in their hiding place for them to lie on.
- Try to stick to your cat’s routine as much as possible. For example, keep feeding times at the same times of the day.
- Try to engage your cat in some playtimes each day too. If you don’t have access to toys, a scrunched up piece of paper can act as a ball. They might like batting the inner cardboard tube from a toilet roll around, and you can tie a hair elastic on a piece of string to make a toy for interactive play (just be careful not to let your cat eat it!). Paper (especially if it’s a bit crinkly) or bits of cardboard can also be makeshift things for cats to have fun with and shred or scratch.
- It’s easy to forget things like medications at times of stress. You can set reminders on your phone for giving your pet their medication if you like. And try to keep track of where you’re at with their prescription, so that you can get any prescriptions refilled in time.
Every cat is an individual, so take your cue from them. Most cats will want to spend time hiding, but some cats may want extra fuss and affection from you in which case, of course, give them plenty of pets.
A Personal Note
We hope these resources offer some help or comfort as you navigate the next days, weeks, and months. As proud residents of Louisville, our hearts are hurting for all those who have been affected by the fire in our community.
Please don't hesitate to reach out if you need support.
-Beth Sautins & Mary Angilly
Beth and Mary both live in Louisville. You can reach Beth using the Contact button here. You can reach Mary at Mary Angilly Dog Training.Contact Beth