Does your cat have an uncanny way of nestling on your chest five minutes before the alarm goes off? Does your dog station itself by the food dish at precisely the time dinner’s usually served? Do they gather by the door around the time you typically arrive home from work?
If it seems like your pet has a finely synchronized internal clock, it may likely be true. And like your internal clock, it could be disrupted by twice-a-year changes to accommodate daylight saving time.
Most mammals, including dogs and perhaps cats, are guided by circadian rhythms, or internal clocks that are run by the amount of natural daylight and darkness during a 24-hour period. Circadian rhythms influence physical and behavioral aspects of your pet, from sleep/wake cycles to hormone levels.
In earlier times, these rhythms likely helped dogs and cats eat, sleep and exercise at optimal times for catching prey.
At the same time, pets are also keen observers of your routines and cues. They may know when you typically go for a run, when you are likely to dig through the fridge for a snack and even when you might want a snuggle with a furry family member in front of the TV.
This year, when you turn the clocks ahead on that second Sunday in March, the sun will seem to rise an hour later in the mornings and the evenings will remain lighter longer. Chances are, your pet finds that just as disorienting as you do. Dogs and cats are also creatures of habit, so changes in their routines can lead to anxiety.
While most pets may be delighted to be fed earlier than usual, there are some ways to make the transition easier on you and your pets. Instead of turning the clock forward an hour on a single day, try turning it forward in 15-minute increments, over the course of several days.
Start a week to 10 days before the actual day when the clocks officially change. That way, you and your pet can gradually adjust to the change. At the same time, make the same incremental changes to other important things in your pet’s schedule, including mealtimes, playtimes and walks. That way, you and your pet can adjust to spring on your own schedules.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.