With thousands of family members heading back to school or work, recently acquired pets may face an uphill battle in adjusting to being left home alone and may experience separation anxiety.
Pets that have been adopted or purchased over the holidays have had the luxury of having the family around more often, fuelling their need to be stimulated and loved. Now that families are returning to work and school, many pets may feel deserted and spend their time waiting for their family members to come home.
Pets can suffer from separation anxiety even if they have the company of another pet, as it is the human relationships that they crave.
Bored dogs and cats may find novel ways to amuse themselves which may be anything but amusing to their owners. According to Animal Aid’s Senior Vet, Dr. Elise Vogt, there are a number of common signs that pets display if they are finding it difficult to cope without their owners.
- Urinating and defecating in the house.
- Destructive behavior such as chewing.
- Excessive barking or meowing.
- Pacing the yard.
- Raiding the garbage.
- Digging up the garden.
- Attempting to escape the house or backyard.
Never fear, leading animal welfare organization, Animal Aid, has a number of tips to help your pets beat the blues and transition into the school term or the normal everyday routine.
In the one or two weeks prior to the kids returning to school, introduce several short periods of separation to get them used to you leaving and returning home again. Gradually increase the time spent apart so they don’t go ‘cold turkey’ on the day you go back to school or work.
Prior to leaving your pet, don’t make a big fuss of them. Exercise or play sessions with your pet should cease at least 30 minutes prior to leaving, providing them ample time to calm down so they are in a more placid state when left.
Ensure that your pet associates time alone with something positive, a tasty treat is an ideal way to distract them. When leaving each morning, you may want to give a food dispensing toy to encourage play and mental stimulation. Other options are raw bones or other types of interactive toys.
Make regular play and exercise times with your pet part of the whole family’s routine each day.
Never scold or punish your pet for inappropriate behavior or if they are having difficulty adjusting. If an owner punishes their pet, it may become more upset and the problem could exacerbate.
Upon your return, try not to make a fuss of them the minute you arrive home. Ideally, ignore them (no voice, eye or physical contact) for about 10 minutes. Particularly with a dog, it is ideal to wait until they are calm and quiet before you make a fuss of them.
According to Dr. Vogt, the key is to be patient and to work with the pet until it feels comfortable spending time alone.
“Mere mortals often face these challenges so it is only natural that our pets also experience those tensions and anxieties when such significant changes to their schedule take place,” she said.
“For advice or assistance, please contact Animal Aid. Our experts can help you work through your problems and make life better for everyone concerned.”