As humans, we know how daylight saving time affects us: bleary eyes in the spring and a glorious extra hour of sleep in the fall. But are our pets impacted? And if so, how can we make sure we aren’t losing that extra hour of sleep when a whining dog or yowling cat jumps on the bed?
Daylight saving time begins every year on the second Sunday of March, when most Americans and Canadians “spring forward” by setting their clocks one hour ahead. This continues until the first Sunday of November, when daylight saving time ends and we set our clocks back one hour to “fall back.”
The beginning or end of daylight saving time can disrupt sleep schedules, leaving some people feeling groggy and tired. With a few extra alarms and a cup of coffee, most of us adjust to daylight saving time pretty quickly.
Daylight saving time has a similar impact on our furry friends — minus the cup of coffee! Pets usually adapt to the transition within a few days, but there are still steps you can take in advance to help your dog or cat calibrate to daylight saving time.
How daylight saving time affects dogs and cats
Dogs and cats have a circadian rhythm or “body clock,” just like we do. But while humans have a “body clock,” we plan our actual daily schedule around external timekeeping. (That’s why we get out of bed when the alarm tells us to, whether our body agrees or not!)
For our pets, their internal “body clock” is the only one they have. They don’t know or care that your alarm says 5:00 instead of 6:00 — but they do notice the change in their daily routine.
Daylight saving time throws a wrench into the works and puzzles our pets, as Alison Holdhus-Small, a research assistant at the Australia-based research and development organization CSIRO Livestock Industries, explains:
“When humans change the clocks for daylight saving, to suit our preferred working environment, from an animal’s point of view we are suddenly behaving oddly. To the animals, it is inexplicable that suddenly dinner is an hour later or earlier than expected.”
At the start and end of daylight saving time, dogs and cats that are used to waking up at a certain time are now being asked to wake up an hour earlier or an hour later. They are suddenly required to go potty at a different time than they usually would. Their meal times, the time they go for a walk and the time their owner leaves and comes home has all changed.
The sudden change of daylight saving time can be confusing to dogs and cats, who are creatures of habit that feel most comfortable with a predictable routine.
How to help cats and dogs adjust to daylight saving time
If your pet gets confused by the changes caused by daylight saving time, there are some steps you can take to make the transition easier for them in the days leading up to the shift.
- Start getting them used to the change in meal time. In the weeks leading up to the time change, feed them a few minutes earlier (or later) until eventually their meal time has changed to daylight saving time.
- Keep your pets meal time the same year round. Conversely, some experts recommend feeding your pet at the same time year round regardless of the time change. That means that you adjust your feeding time so Fido or Fluffy stays on the same schedule. For example, perhaps dinner is at 7:00 pm during daylight saving time, and 6:00 pm for the rest of the year.
- Get up early to give your pet extra potty time. Plan ahead so that if your pet is confused by the time change they have a few extra minutes to adjust. This is especially important for dogs that are used to going potty at the same time each morning, or for very young or very old dogs that may not be able to “hold it” for an extra hour. The extra few minutes will give you both time to adjust, and maybe you can have an extra cup of coffee while your pup is sniffing around.
- Consider a pet sitter or dog walker. Some pets become lonely when their owner leaves earlier or comes home an hour later. Consider having a pet sitter or dog walker stop by to spend time with your dog or cat.
Are other animals impacted by daylight saving time?
Pets are only impacted by daylight saving time because they have no choice but to follow our schedules. As far as the rest of the natural world is concerned, they don’t care about silly human concepts like timekeeping. Wildlife will continue to adjust their daily routine to sunlight, not clock faces, and so they won’t be impacted by daylight saving time at all.
That means you and Fido may see different wildlife than usual on your morning walks!
Take the time to prepare in advance and hopefully, your pets will let you sleep in an extra hour when you “fall back” this November!
As with any changes in your dog or cat’s daily schedule, it may just take some time for your pet to get used to. Use this as an excuse to spoil your pet (as if you needed a reason!) with lots of snuggle time and some yummy freeze-dried treats for cats and dogs.
For more tips and tricks for dogs and cats, be sure to check out our growing collection of blog posts. Enter your email into our mailing list to receive exclusive savings on Vital Essentials and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for updates and contests.