The separation anxiety struggle will be real for your pet when you go back to work or school
Heading back to the office? Kids going back to in-person school? NOW is the time to start thinking about how your pet might react to that sudden and significant change in lifestyle!
Most canines—and even many felines—thrive on routine and even if cats might not show it as much as dogs, their world revolves around you. That’s why it’s important to know the signs of pending separation anxiety as well as what to do about it.
To find out if your pet might have an issue, try leaving the house for short periods, but don’t go far. If your pooch begins to bark, howl, whine, or scratch at the door, or tears something up while you’re away for that few minutes, chances are you are going to have a distressed dog on your hands when you’re gone more.
It may take a little longer for your cat to react, but eventually he or she may show it in such behaviors as excessive vocalization, refusal to eat, destructive behavior, or doing their business outside the litterbox.
Separation anxiety is no joke—upset pets can not only do damage to your home and property, but to themselves as well. So how do you prepare your pet to be alone again? Here are a few suggestions to help acclimate your animal companion:
- Start as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the day before you return to your work routine. Ease super-attached dogs into it by telling your pet to “stay” and then going to another room for a minute before calling them to you. Putting your pet in a separate room—with a favorite toy or long-lasting treat for 10-20 minutes may help as well.
- Let your pet practice being alone. After starting with going to another room for a few minutes, try to work for few hours each day in a different room.
- Leave the house. Go for short periods of time, but not far. If your pooch begins to bark, howl, whine, or scratch at the door while you’re away for those few minutes, wait until it’s quiet before going back in. Gradually increase the time you are gone.
- Make leaving a non-event. Don’t acknowledge your pet or say goodbye when you go. Yes, it’s hard not to tell them you love them and to be good while you’re gone—but it’s necessary.
- Take your dog for some energy-burning exercise and play with your cat before you leave. This is extremely helpful in reducing stress. A tired animal has a much greater chance of being a calm animal.
- Enrich your pet’s environment. Try interactive games, treat puzzles and toys that are only used when you’re away to keep your dog or cat occupied. These toys and games don’t have to be expensive, and there’s plenty of more advanced canine entertainment available. If you have the space and time, building a “catio” for indoor felines will greatly improve their quality of life.
- Long-lasting treats. For dogs, give them a stuffed Kong every time you leave and they may even start to look forward to your departure! Try freezing them for a longer-lasting treat.
- Leave music or the television on. Find something soothing—studies show reggae and soft rock work well—to keep your pet company while you are gone.
- Try a comfort vest like a ThunderShirt, which can help calm dogs. A version of this for cats might include making sure they have a safe space or den.
- Try herbal solutions and pheromones. Rescue, Adaptil, or Feliway products as a supplement to training. Cannabidiol (CBD) is also gaining popularity as a treatment for canine anxiety. Your Companion Care vet can talk with you about all of these options as well as prescription medications that might be helpful for extreme cases.
- Reach out to a professional trainer or behaviorist if necessary. In the long run, this will be less expensive than a demolished den or vet bills from anxiety-caused injuries.
- Sign up for doggie daycare or a house visit for your cat. For dogs, daycare keeps them busy and social. For cats, a pet sitter or friend coming in once a day to give them playtime and attention until the pat acclimates to the new schedule may help.
Finally, be patient and don’t give up right away as it may just take time for your pet to adjust to your new schedule. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (860) 669-5721 if you need more advice or want to make an appointment for your pet!