Home improvement projects are often stressful. Even though working with professional home remodeling contractors and design-build teams makes the process so much easier, the number of things to keep track of and the sheer activity can sometimes be overwhelming for us.
And if we find it stressful, how much more for our pets?
Home remodeling creates an environment that is chaotic and crowded. For animals that are generally very territorial, this can cause some major problems. How does one go about being a responsible homeowner and nipping potential problems in the bud?
Distract Them From the Remodel
“Some dogs can get stressed by new people constantly coming to the door,” says Julie Reck—DVM, veterinarian, and owner of the Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill, Southern California. Their instincts kick in because of what are essentially strangers on their property. As a result, they react accordingly; they bark, they hide, they whine, they prepare to attack … they’re basically on edge.
As you can probably guess, this isn’t good for their mental or physical health at all.
The best way to de-stress them is to distract them. Dr. Reck recommends scheduling vigorous walks in the morning before the home remodeling contractors and their crew arrive. Ideally, the walk burns up all the pent-up energy they have, consequently tiring them out—and calming them down—by the time you get home. Ideally, after a couple of days of seeing (and smelling) the same people arrive, acclimate to the schedule.
Alternatively, you can burn off that nervous energy by sending them to a pet daycare center for a few hours as well. If your dog is social, the presence of other dogs will help calm them down even further.
Other pets like cats or rabbits won’t react too positively to dealing with strangers, either. Cats can be just as territorial as dogs, and rabbits can get scared and nervous very easily. Keep their stress levels down by distracting them from the remodel. Play with them, bring them to a friend’s house, or keep them busy in a different room away from the noise and activity of the renovation site.
Consider Their Specialized Senses
A lot of animals have heightened senses. This is especially true for pets like dogs, cats, snakes, rabbits, birds, etc. So when you introduce a lot of unfamiliar elements into what they consider their territory (for dogs, cats, and snakes) or their safe space (for rabbits, iguanas, and birds), you’ll have to deal with more than just emotional anxiety born of uncertainty. You’re also going to have to take their extrasensory perception into consideration.
New voices, new smells, new (and loud) sounds, uncomfortable (and harsh) noises … these can all come together in a cacophony of chaos that not a lot of animals can handle on the first try. In order to keep your pets safe and secure during a home remodel, we recommend taking measures to muffle, dampen, or block out the sensations coming from the renovation site.
For instance, DVM and board-certified veterinary behaviorist Kenneth Martin uses white noise machines and music therapy to calm their dogs’ heart rates. Regarding their own home renovation, Dr. Martin says that they reduced visual stimuli. “We kept our blinds closed,” says Dr. Martin, “so our dogs would not see all the workmen coming and going.”
For pets in special contained habitats—like fish, lizards, iguanas, guinea pigs, hamsters—it might be as simple as moving their home from one room to another. You can move the aquarium to the second-floor guest bedroom while you renovate the living room, or you can transfer your hamster’s cage from the kid’s room to the reading room or home office while you remodel the bedrooms.
Discuss Pet Safety with Home Remodeling Contractors Beforehand
If, even after researching, you still aren’t sure what you can do to keep your pets safe and at ease during a home remodel, don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns with your contractor. Professional home remodeling contractors will no doubt have considerable experience and knowledge regarding pet safety and security throughout the house.
They might recommend practical steps like introducing your pet to the crew (especially if your pet is relatively friendly) so they can see them as friends rather than strangers or placing your pets in a comfortable, fenced-in area—especially for outdoor pets like chickens or ducks—to ensure they don’t get underfoot.
The dust and odor from the construction site can be extremely problematic for pets with sensitive noses, so your home remodeling contractors might also recommend adding more filtration systems or keeping them in the room with the best filter options.
Related Content: How to Control Your Dust During a Home Remodel
Whatever advice they give you, choose the ones that you feel most comfortable about. Ultimately, you know your pets better than the home remodeling contractors. You know what they like and don’t like, what makes them uncomfortable, and what could potentially put them at ease. Ergo, trust that your decisions will be guided by your experience and genuine relationship with your pet.
In the end, you’ll be glad you took precautions when you, your family, your pets, and the home remodeling contractors come out in one piece. An ounce of prevention is always so much better than a pound of cure, and that rings true for home improvement projects. As the homeowner and client, you must do what you can to guarantee the safety of all parties involved.