• Jackhammer on sidewalk.
  • Photo closeup of dog bearing teeth.
  • Photo closeup of cat with wounded ear.
  • Closeup photo of woman comforting small dog, holding them close to her face.

Pets in Construction Areas = Pets in Distress: Help them Cope

Pets in Construction Areas = Pets in Distress: Help them Cope

Jackhammers and bulldozing affect our pets' well-being just as much as our own. Catch some pet care ideas, when construction is too much.


Two long-time, loving friends, are attacking each other.
Biting, clawing. Raising welts. Causing bleeding. They are mauling each other, far from the snuggling together they used to enjoy. Actually, these friends are blood relatives. Now they are drawing blood, that's how distressed they are.

So who are these now-miserable, aggressive friends/relatives? They are the pet cats of William O’Neill, a long-time East Cambridge resident. “They always got along, never any fighting” William says. “Now they have fights. Really big fights.”

AND WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? WHY THE SUDDEN AGGRESSION?

Neighborhood construction.
That’s what’s going on. Here, and in so many places in Cambridge, the jackhammers start at 7 am and run right through the late afternoon. And so do the banging, and vibration of other construction equipment. It’s hard enough for humans to cope with it. And we have the ability to rationalize our way to some kind of peace: “It will end soon. I think I’ll meditate. CBD oil will help.” But our beloved pets do not have the capability. So. They. Just. Suffer. And sometimes - all too often – they take that suffering out on each other or on themselves. Biting or scratching each other, even chewing on themselves.

“It started between them 2-3 weeks after all the construction started,” William recalls. “I’d come home from work and find red marks, wounds. Their diets have changed. They’ve lost weight from the stress. And my vet bills have piled up – for appointments, medication for infections, [Recovery] Cones to protect them from reopening their wounds.” And there’s the daily, traumatizing, stressful - for William and his cats - routine of medicating them, putting on salves, examining their wounds for further infection. “The damage to us and our relationships. It’s intense.”

Myrna Robinson-Weiner, Practice Manager at Cambridge Veterinary Care, confirms that construction is a true hazard to the well-being of pets. “We see this every day. The noise, the disruption is disturbing for pets.” Ms. Robinson-Weiner suggests asking the people in charge of construction a few pointed questions: How long will the construction last? What time will it start during the day? What time of day will it end? Ask these questions, as the pet owner, so you can do some healthy planning. You can consider boarding your pet during the construction. Cambridge Veterinary Care boards animals, but that might not be possible (affordable for the owner or emotionally healthy for the pet) for the long-haul.

Robinson-Weiner also suggests using Feliway (spray or plug-in) – a feline pheromone product that calms cats – or Adaptil (spray or plug-in), same idea for dogs. There is also a Feliway product designed for the presence of multiple cats to help reduce conflict among/between them. For dogs, she suggests taking them out for vigorous walks. Not for the purpose of wearing them out, but to tire them just enough so they can get some sleep. There’s also doggie day care, if construction is happening by day.

And, overall, Robinson-Wiener stresses that the owner needs to work on their own relaxation with the situation, as much as possible, because animals do pick up on and can manifest the feelings of their people.

William is adding pet probiotics to his cats’ diets to help balance the gut flora, which he thinks helps decrease the stress his cats are experiencing. And there are myriad stress-reduction techniques – such as acupressure and acupuncture for your pets. Herbals. Massage. All the things humans find comforting and easing can also help animals.

And, if all else fails, for cats, dogs, and other horribly stressed, self-or-other-harming pets, consider talking with your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medications for your pet.

But beyond the effects on our pets, there’s the broader issue of noticeably expanding and aggressive construction in our city. As William notes, “I feel defeated, for us, for our pets, for society. We had no say in this construction. We have no say.” And that sentiment is shared by a great many Cambridge residents, as we are encroached upon throughout the City by over-sized building.

Until and unless there is greater concern for the well-being of living beings than there is for development here in our city (and proper mitigation/compensation by developers for the full impact borne by all residents) we will know that, every day, pets will suffer and struggle. We can only be grateful for pet owners like William O'Neill as he lovingly labors to protect, heal, and comfort those beings to whom he has been entrusted care.