The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly disrupted many of our lives, and it’s affected our pets significantly, too! While the kids are going back to school this September, things will be looking a little different. Ever since the shutdown began in March, many of us have had our entire family home all at once, creating a new home environment and new routines. Your pets have certainly benefited from this change, as dogs can bask in their family’s presence and extra attention, while are cats likely enjoy their family, too, albeit less enthusiastically! Now that the kids are slated to go back to school, things are going to change—big time—for your pets because it also means that many businesses will be opening back up as well. So instead of a full house with the whole family, cats and dogs will be left with an empty house for the better part of the day.
Such a dramatic shift can cause any pet to lose their cool and start chewing on your favorite pair of shoes! Yet, if you start now, you can make a huge difference in their mental well-being that will set them up for a smoother transition, and less cat or dog separation anxiety.
Signs of Pet Separation Anxiety
First, let’s take a look at the signs of pet separation anxiety. While you’re home a lot now, you may notice some of these signs after you come home from a run to the grocery store or a walk outside without your furry best friend:
- Increased clinginess when you’re home
- Barking, whining, and howling while you’re away (ask your neighbors about this one or set up a camera to capture the cacophony!)
- Chewing up shoes, furniture, pillows, socks, etc.
- Tearing at the carpet, floor, or door frame where you normally exit
- Having accidents in the house
- Eating less, and lethargy
How to Help Your Pet Adjust to a Post-COVID World
There are a lot of different ways you can help ease your pet’s stress and keep them occupied while you’re away. Some of these are a bit more intensive than others and can take time and patience to be fully effective—but trust us, it’s worth it in the long run for the peace of mind it brings!
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
It’s a fact that a tired pet doesn’t have as much energy to be anxious and distressed! Make it a habit to walk your pet or play with them in the morning before you’ll need to take the kids to school or head into the office yourself. This helps activate their mind and body, so they have less time to spend on wondering why you’re not home!
Keep Your Comings and Goings Uneventful
Whenever you do leave the house or come home, don’t make a big deal about it. Pets are sensitive to our emotions, so if we make a big fuss about leaving them behind, they’re going to feel anxious and upset, too! By keeping things calm and nonchalant, your dog or cat will learn to be cool as a cucumber whether you come or go!
Tap into Your Pet’s Food Motivation
Give your pet something to look forward to when you’re away by giving them food puzzles like Kongs or hiding treats throughout the house that they can find during the day. This entertains and stimulates them and is a sweet distraction that keeps them nibbling on food, rather than your shoes!
Encourage Your Kids to Play with Your Pet
If you have kids, give them a teachable moment by encouraging them to play with the family pet when they get home from school. Tell them how important it is to give pets plenty of exercise and enrichment, as well as strengthen your bond with them. Plus, having a play session with the kids every day gives your pet something to look forward to!
Keep Your Pet Entertained
Leaving the TV or radio on while you’re gone can give your pet some comforting noise and visuals that keep them from feeling lonely. It gives them something to focus on, and can even be quite entertaining if you invest in streaming services like Netflix or DogTV that offer videos specifically for cats and dogs!
Take Your Pet to Daycare
If you’re concerned your pet will be lonely all day, consider enrolling them in daycare! While most daycares are for dogs only, some facilities may also offer day boarding for cats. Daycare is a great way for your dog to socialize with other dogs and people, and get some exercise, too. In order to participate in group play, your dog will likely need to be evaluated to ensure they play nice with others.