Make daylight savings time less stressful for pets (c) 2009-2019 Frania
Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
In New York City a Sunday in the fall or spring is usually the beginning or end of
daylight savings time. This mechanism for bringing more light to farmers and
children waiting at rural bus stops leaves us city dwellers off to work and back in
the dark. Daylight savings time means scheduled activities are set back one full
hour in autumn or forward one full hour in spring, including the set times we may
feed our pets.
This change may be upsetting to companion animals that are aware only of a sudden
shift in feeding times. The disruption in schedule may no doubt stress your animals
and pets, most notably some dogs and most cats, will actively “petition” for meals at
their “normal” hour.
Cats and dogs are crepuscular animals, which means they are naturally most active
during twilight or dawn and dusk compared to humans who are diurnal, meaning
most active during daylight hours. Domesticated animals being dependent upon us
for food become accustomed to our diurnal routines. We feed according to our own
patterns of when breakfast and dinner should be. Dogs being famously more obliging
usually appear less put off by timing changes. While the change may be vexing for
them the accommodation for their humans is usually more apparent. Why felines
are more affected by waiting for a meal may be due to a number of factors. During
the history of our domestication of the cat we have depended on this animal to partly
procure its own food whether for utility, nourishment or for its own sport. Cats are
focused predators with superior hunting skills. Cats hunt for mice to "help" us alleviate
a rodent “problem”, for a meal or for the fun of it.
Focus and anticipation carry over to meal time expectations. When observing stereo-
typic behavior in captive tigers (an indicator of poor welfare) pacing prior to meal
times is not classified as being stereotypic rather as “anticipatory.” This behavior is
also apparent in the intertwining anticipatory dance your own cat may do while you
open food cans or fill
Now if you are leaving dry food down for your cat at all times your cat and yourself
can be blissfully oblivious to the whole spring forward fall back routine. (For free
feeders, do switch up the enrichment factor and give your cat more to do by feeding
with a puzzle feeder for all meals and not just treats.) For the rest of us it will soon
become apparent that your cat just did not get the memo about daylight savings
time. Depending on whatever hour kitty expects breakfast expect a reminder at the
pre-daylight savings time hour, you know the reminders: the pat on the cheek, the
plaintive cry, the books toppling off the bookshelf.
Ease yourself and your pets into this new routine by adjusting feeding times gradually.
For instance, depending on whether you have lost or gained an hour begin with the
same time minus the time change to make your adjustment. So, if dinner is usually
served at 6 PM start serving at 5:15 PM for two days followed by two days at 5:30 PM
then serve two days at 5:45 PM and finally at 6 PM. A breakfast feeding at 7 AM can
be adjusted by serving two days at 6:15 AM then two days at 6:30 AM followed by two
days at 6:45 AM until you are serving at 7 AM.
A little flexibility for your pets in when you are serving and scheduling mealtimes
during this transition will make the change less nerve-racking for your pets and less
demanding for you.
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"The disruption in schedule may
no doubt stress your animals
and pets, most notably some
dogs and most cats, will actively
“petition” for meals at their
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