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Caring for Pets on a Shifty Schedule

Caring for furry friends while on a shifty schedule? Night shift veterinary nurse Ruth Greenhill has you covered.

There’s nothing more relaxing than hearing the purr of my cat as I greet him after an action-packed night shift. Meanwhile, some of my colleagues are met by wagging tails from their canine friends.

Whatever animal companion you may have at home, caring for a pet is truly beneficial, with studies finding animal carers to have enhanced mental health, with reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

The irregular lifestyle of working the night shift, however, can sometimes bring challenges when trying to care for and provide companionship to your pet. It’s not impossible to take care of your furry friends whilst working nighttime hours. Like most things, it takes some thoughtful planning and some adjustments. Here are some ideas to make it work.

 

Use your downtime

Use your pre- and post-shift downtime to stimulate and tire your pets. Dog carers may find that a walk with games and play in the early morning after your shift may tire your dog for most of the day whilst you sleep. Similarly, if you have enough time in the evening, a sensory, pet-led walk allows your dogs to control the walk, sniffing and stopping wherever they please. This slower-paced walk has the added benefit of preparing your brain for work.

 

Provide a comfy sleeping spot

Since you’ll be asleep during the day, make sure your home is pet-friendly for your furry companions in case they want to sleep too. Ensure they have a comfortable and quiet place to sleep, away from daytime disturbances. Studies have shown that playing relaxing music can also help your pets, with classical and reggae being the most beneficial.

 

Offer entertainment

Keep your pets engaged and entertained during the day while you sleep. Interactive toys, puzzles, and treat-dispensing devices can provide mental stimulation and prevent boredom. Most animals, whether furry, scaled, or feathered can be entertained with puzzles and toys that promote mental stimulation. Such toys could be as simple as a repurposed toilet roll, to a specifically designed pet puzzle. Speak with your veterinary technician or carry out an internet search for species-specific enrichment ideas.

Most animals, whether furry, scaled, or feathered can be entertained with puzzles and toys that promote mental stimulation.

Use tech to stay connected

Modern technology can help you stay connected with your pets even when you’re not at home. Cameras or pet monitoring systems allow you to check on your pets remotely. Some even let you talk to them or dispense treats remotely. For some animals, this interaction can help ease separation anxiety and keep them reassured. However, others may find it distressing hearing their carers’ voice but not being able to see them— so test any new gadgets to see how they react before going on shift.

 

Ask for help

If you have family, friends, housemates, or even a trustworthy pet-friendly neighbour who is home during the day and loves animals, consider asking for their help. They can drop by to feed, play, or let your pets out for a bathroom break. It’s a cost-effective solution that can provide your pets with the care and companionship they need. If this isn’t possible, then employing a dog walker or pet sitter may be beneficial for you.

 

Fill their bellies

Make sure to provide a balanced diet and monitor their water supply. Leave out fresh food and water for your pets before you head to work. If you’re worried about their feeding schedule, automatic feeders can dispense meals at set times. If your pet eats kibble, use slow feeders, or food puzzles to lengthen their mealtimes and keep them stimulated for longer.

It’s not impossible to take care of your furry friends whilst working nighttime hours. Like most things, it takes some thoughtful planning and some adjustments.

Speak to your veterinarian

Your veterinarian may be able to suggest various products which could help calm your pet whilst they settle into your night shift routine. For example, they may suggest pet-specific plug-in diffusers such as Feliway© and Adaptil© can help calm your pets by releasing animal pheromones, which are scentless to humans. Or they may recommend Pet Remedy, which is another diffuser product which releases a calming blend of essential oils, which can also calm people! If your pet suffers from separation anxiety whilst you are at work, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medication if required.

 

Get in extra cuddles

When you have days off, make sure to spend quality time with your pets. Play, cuddle, and engage in activities they love. This helps reinforce your bond and compensate for the time you spend away while working the night shift. Just be mindful of also allowing them plenty of alone time during this time, as you do not want to encourage separation anxiety.

 

Want to learn more about pet care? Follow along with Ruth’s adventures on her informative and entertaining Youtube channel. 👇

 

Last updated: 2024-03-11

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Ruth Greenhill

Ruth Greenhill is a veterinary nurse in London, UK, currently working the night shift at a referral hospital. She is a marine mammal medic, a self-declared cat person, and has a soft spot for Dalmatians and exotics.

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