Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A gradual approach can help pets and humans adjust to daylight savings time

Before too long, we’ll be relishing longer days, and warmer temperatures  -- but first we’ll be adjusting our clocks. This coming weekend, we’ll be setting our timepieces forward for daylight savings time (DST). Though that task doesn’t seem challenging, we’ll be slogging through the first few days of having lost that hour of sleep. So tough, right?  For many households, it’s not just the biped members of the family that will need to adjust: our pets will right there along with us, and that can throw a wrench into things.

Despite the fact that pets are not on a circadian rhythm as we are (though cats are crepescular), they are very much in tune to our schedules and habits, no matter what those are.

Though mine is very much a household without canines for now, I had to laugh every year during those first few days after daylight savings time when Gretchen -- who was always the kind of dog that was all too happy to sleep in -- would raise her head and give the look of, ‘Just 10 more minutes, please…’

In any case, in my house, the change can make for a rough handful of mornings of early appointments if I don't prepare.

With that in mind, I try to make things easier on myself as a caregiver and on my senior cat, Silver, who needs medication before I head out for the morning. Here are my strategies for staying on track this time of year.

Take a gradual approach

Usually a week or so before we’re due to ‘spring forward’ forward each year, I prepare by tweaking my usual wake time by 15 minutes every other day so that I can adjust, and help my charges do the same. By the time we spring forward, the hour difference poses little problem. Most folks will attest that their pets know when it’s time for dinner, and that they pick up on any deviation. Incorporating the same 15-minute adjustment over a week’s time can help make that transition seamless, too.

Use the extra daylight to your advantage

The longer days, especially once the change occurs, can be an asset. I use that to encourage some additional physical activity (or mental stimulation, given a pet’s abilities) for my charges, which helps them to wind down more easily at bedtime and ease into dreamland. Settling down at night after the time change can be especially difficult, and young companion animals, as well as those in advanced age really need adequate sleep. Consider getting in a hearty walk before sunset, or introduce novel games to stimulate both the brain and body. Fun stuff, like a satisfying chew toy or stuffed Kong are great for any age group of dog. Cats love to have constructive things to do too and a light snack delivered via a foraging toy can help.

Room to rest

In plenty of households, it's common for pets to share their human's bed. While there certainly isn't anything wrong with that, it's not out of the question to draw the line in some respects, either, especially if the transition to daylight savings time is causing a disruption in sleep. Ensuring that your pets have an alternate place of their own to rest their bones if they are finding it difficult to settle in (or having a chew party) at bedtime can be helpful. Click here for more ideas on helping you and your four-legged friends get some shut eye.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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