Getting pets ready for when the clocks change

In spring we lose an hour, in autumn we gain one – daylight savings and clock changes can be confusing enough for us, but for our pets it can be an even bigger change.

Pets – in particular dogs and cats – are creatures of habit. When the clocks change, you might find you need to change their routine which can be unsettling for them. There are a few simple things you can do in the lead up to or once the clocks have altered.


When the clocks go forward

On the last Sunday in March, we ‘lose’ an hour. Although it means getting up an hour earlier, it also means the evenings are much lighter.

It can be a little more difficult for pets to adjust to this change but a bit of advanced preparation can really help. Don’t try to force your pet to wake up an hour earlier straight away – sudden change can be stressful for pets. Instead, try slowly adjusting their breakfast time over a week or so before the clocks change. By offering their food 10 minutes earlier each day, they are more likely to naturally adjust to waking up earlier.

If you usually settle your pet down at a certain time of the night for bed, you may find it tricky getting them to settle an hour earlier. If you can, prepare in advance. Bring their bedtime forward by 10 minutes each evening so they can get used to it gradually in time for the clocks changing. You may also want to take dogs on slightly longer walks in the evenings to help tire them out, if suitable for their health.

If your cat has access to outside, you may find they take full advantage of the lighter evenings to stay out longer. Try to keep to a feeding schedule so they are more likely to come home at set times. If you’re worried, you could also keep them inside after their evening meal, though bear in mind it might take your cat a while to get used to this if they’re used to having the run of the outdoors. Make sure you provide them with plenty of indoor activities to keep them occupied if you’re going to do this.

Photo of a kitten in its bed

When the clocks go back

On the last Sunday in October, the clocks go back and we ‘gain’ an hour. The mornings get lighter (and the evenings get darker), 6am becomes 5am and so on.

Most pet owners will have a set routine, which is great for our pets because this is familiar and reduces stress. So how can you help your pet get used to the changes without having to alter your entire routine?

You’ll need to let them adjust slowly to the new timings. This is usually less of an issue with small pets like rabbits or hamsters where the chances are the main routine change they will need to settle into is shifted feeding times. However with dogs and cats there may be a little more to think about.

If the first thing you do in the morning is let your pet in or outdoors, you’ll still need to do this at the same time as always (which will be an hour earlier by the clock), to prevent any accidents for the first day the clocks change. From there, try shifting your pet’s morning routine 10 minutes later every day until you have made up the extra hour – this works for evening routines as well as feeding and playing with your pets, too. Depending on your routine, it might be easier to start the shift a few days or a week before the clocks change so that you’re not having to get up so much earlier. As an added bonus, shifting your routine slowly can also make you feel less jet-lagged by the sudden change as well!

If your pet has an accident in the house while you’re all adjusting to the hour difference, don’t be angry at them. They don’t understand why the clocks have changed. By slowly delaying their routine by an hour, they should adjust to the difference over a few days.

Older pets with problems like dementia may struggle more than young and healthy pets to adapt to routine changes, so it can be worth taking changes more slowly to give them a bit longer to get used to things. If they’re struggling, it’s best to talk to your vet who can give you advice on other things that might help them.

Remember that evenings will now be darker, too, so you may need to start walking your dog a bit earlier. If this isn’t possible, read our advice on walking your dog when it’s dark.

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