How to Fanimal in an Age of Social Distancing

By Nora Livingstone

You love animals and you would like to help them. But what does that look like when being the best community member means adhering to social distancing and staying at home? 

First, to help animals you have to take care of yourself. Make sure you are mentally and physically safe. Stay home as much as possible. Then make sure you have washed your hands, you are hydrated and you are well rested. The world is better with you in it, so take care of yourself and your loved ones and you’ll be much more effective at helping animals in the long term. 

There are many ways to help animals right now. From itty bitty bees to massive great white sharks- animals can use all the help they can get, now more than ever. 

Animals at Home

Look around you, do you have pets? The best way to help animals right now is with your furry, feathery and scaly family members. Do you have a dog, cat or goat that you can take on a walk? Not only will it be good for your physical health, it will be good for your mental health. Make sure they are on a lead and you keep 2 metres or 6 feet away from others. Pamper your pet today and show them that being a Fanimal isn’t just helping animals around the world, it’s about giving them the love they know they deserve. Into quarantine baking? We have a special dog cookie recipe for your furry forever friend!

Animals in Your Community

Domestic animal shelters and rescues need your help right now. Every shelter and rescue is different so contact your local one today and ask what they need. Foster families are desperately needed in many communities because smaller volunteer numbers means cats and dogs have less attention during the day. If you can foster a dog or cat (or guinea pig or budgie), you can make sure they have a happy and healthy few months before they find their forever family. 

Can’t foster right now? That is okay, there are other ways to support animals in shelters. Many shelters will accept new dog and cat toys (check their online wishlists) as well as hand made toys by animal lovers like you. Food puzzles are great enrichment games for animals that are staying in a shelter. They don’t have to be elaborate either, put some kibbles into a plastic water bottle (don’t put the lid back on) and see dogs have the time of their lives! Protocols will have changed at many shelters and rescues so before you start sewing cat nip fishies for cats and pre-filling kongs with peanut butter, check in with the shelter.

Many shelters need things like towels and beds. But remember, we don’t want to get animal rescuers sick so if you are going to deliver towels and dog beds, wash them first, put them into a sealed bag and call the rescue to make sure you are following all their protocols. They will more than likely leave the bag of donations outside after you drop it off, pick it up with gloves and immediately throw everything into the washing machines to disinfect it again. Do them a favour and if you have extra bleach or laundry detergent, leave some of that too. There is a lot of washing in their future. 

It is expected that the number of feral cats will increase because charities will not be able to do their normal Trap, Neuter, Release programs. Please keep your cat indoors, not only will this help keep populations of kittens down, it will also keep populations of birds up. It is a lot safer for kitty to be inside. If you are worried about them getting bored, this is an excellent time to build them cat games, outdoor runs and just have a good ol’ fashioned play with them. 

Remember that there are more than just dog and cat rescues in your area. Do a quick google search to see if there are any other rescues or sanctuaries close to you. Contact them to see what they need. Maybe the horse rescue down the road could really use some help with repairing horse blankets. After the blanket is disinfected, you can help them by sewing and mending horse clothes. What skills you will have in a few months! The nights are still chilly and the horses will love you for it. Remember to keep yourself safe: disinfect everything with soapy hot water before you touch anything. 

Wildlife in your area also needs your help. You can start at home by researching the animals in your very backyard. This also gives you and your family something to all work on together! Are you somewhere where hummingbirds live? Ordering hummingbird feeders from local businesses and garden centres not only supports your human neighbors, it also helps your winged ones, too. Too cold for hummingbirds just yet? See what migratory birds are coming through your backyards and see what help they could use. Peanut feeders for bigger birds doesn’t just help them through the cool nights, it also can be an impromptu natural history lesson for the whole family! 

Birds are not the only animals we share space with, if you are in the British Isles and Europe hedgehogs are waking up and looking for grubs. You can help them by leaving a hole in your fence so they can get from garden to garden. You can also make a small pile of sticks, leaves and moss in the back corner of your garden, a little hedgehog mansion would be hard to turn down for those tired from eating grubs all night!

Want a fun activity for the whole family? Bug and bee hotels help everyone. Insects are an important tiny animal in our world, and not just because they are food for bigger animals. Insects pollinate and germinate plants, they move earth and some even fertilize our gardens. Making a bug hotel gives them a place to live, makes your garden super active and helps you become an even better steward to our backyard bug friends. 

Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are going to be out soon too. If you are home and want to work on the garden, think about the local plants that will support local animals. Don’t pull up dandelions as much as you think a lawn would look better without them, the bees need them right now. They will repay the favour by pollinating our food later in the year. Support your local garden stores and nurseries by ordering local flowers online and then arranging curbside pick up when possible. Not sure if your local business do that? Give them a call or go on Facebook and check. Yes, Amazon is easier but these small businesses can really use your help. Since they are local they can give you helpful advice based on your geography, animals, time of the year and more. You aren’t in this alone, they went to help! 

If you just have a balcony you can help, too. Animals don’t care if you have a yard or not, if you have flowers and plants they want to see them! Take your breaks and lunches outside when you can, not only is it good to get fresh air, you will also be able to see the animals who are benefiting from your sudden green thumb. Is a family member suddenly very into the birds you are seeing in the backyard? Are worms the neatest thing to your child? Is your housemate wanting to know more about hedgehogs? Take advantage of the free webinars and resources out there and encourage a heart for conservation and knowledge. Scientists around the world want to tell you all about the amazing animals they work with! Just google your favourite animal +webinar. Sea turtle webinars are one of our favourite things right now. 

Animals Around the World

Many wildlife centres and domestic animal rescues around the world use volunteers as their main work force and source of fundraising. With an almost global ban on travel, these centres are really hurting. The very best way you can help is by supporting their fundraisers. If every single member of Fanimal just gave $20 to their favourite animal rescue or sanctuary, it would help these centres get through these tough times. It could pay to make sure workers don’t get laid off and it would mean the staff wouldn’t have to take out loans to buy the animals’ foods. Job insecurity is a real fear for a lot of us right now so if you can’t donate, commit to sharing their fundraising posts. Financial support is incredibly important but behind these centres are real Fanimals, just like you! Send them words of encouragement, a nice message can go a long way.  

Around the World and Back Home Again

The choices you make when you buy and eat things are really important. Now more than ever. When you spend money at an ethical company you are voting for them to succeed. When you ask a business about it’s purchasing you are showing them you will continue to vote for them to succeed. Ask local businesses about stocking palm oil free cookies, sustainably harvested wood products, organic vegetables, fair trade coffees and planet based proteins. Did you know that shark populations around the world are declining because they are victims of bycatch? They get caught in nets that are being used to catch other fish and they die by the millions. Not eating shark fin soup is your first step to helping sharks. The second step is only eating certified sustainable sea food. The third step is not eating sea food at all. 

It’s hard to get away from plastic right now, with concerns over contamination there is a lot of plastic out there so it’s even more important to say no when you don’t need plastic to stay safe. Say no to plastic straws, tooth brushes and single use plastics that are not part of the health care industry. If the plastic is not actively keeping you safe from contamination, there is another option. Take that other option and encourage others to. The more people ask for ethical options, the more businesses will stock them.  Small changes in your everyday choices adds up to huge changes for the planet and animals!

Support groups like the Centre for Biological Diversity, World Animal Protection, Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund. Of course, financial support is helpful but so is your voice. Right now, you can use your voice to amplify theirs. Signing petitions and forwarding their information to your people goes a long way. Online petitions have more and more sway these days and when they are presented to businesses and elected officials by large conservation and animal loving groups, they really make a difference. Be a supporter by clicking a few buttons and adding your name to the fight! Commit to signing one online petition or taking part in one online writing campaign a week. 

Engage your elected officials. Remember, they work for you! Write them a letter as a family or a household. Tell them you care about animals. Ask what they are doing for wildlife, for farm animals, for domestic pets, to stop the wildlife trade. Get your voice heard! The more people who talk to them about animals, the more they will realize we are all Fanimals! 

ASK the community for help! You have a LARGE network of people because social media connects us all.  Recently a medical supply company who 3D prints face masks went to Facebook to find elastic straps. Before donating the masks to local hospitals they needed to find a way to make these masks stay on the doctors and nurses faces. Within a few days they were donated 1800 metres/5 900 feet of the perfect material! A Facebook post saved lives. Your posts can save lives too, tell people you are a Fanimal and show your online community how even now you are helping the animals we love so much.

Don’t know where to start? Choose one of our 16 Ways to Help Animals Now. Share your action with your friends and with us so we can see all the ways Fanimals are helping animals around the world!