You and your pet have probably spent a lot of time together during the COVID-19 quarantine. After spending so much quality time with you during quarantine, your pet may have become even more bonded with and very dependent on you for its safety and security. Once your pet has become used to a routine that includes being around you for long periods of time, your pet may be insecure when you go back to your pre-quarantine routine. There is a possibility that pet separation anxiety may arise. Knowing how to properly approach it can help you to easing back into a regular routine.
When it’s time for you to go back to work for several hours a day, your pet may show signs of separation anxiety, even if your pet has no history of it before the quarantine. The following is an overview of separation anxiety in pets and how to deal with the transition back to regular work practices.
What is Pet Separation Anxiety?
Pet separation anxiety involves fear or anxiety around being left alone, and it can happen in both dogs and cats. This stress usually results from a pet being very attached to its owner.
Separation Anxiety For Dogs
In dogs, classic signs include one or more of the following behaviors:
- Excessive drooling, pacing or panting when your dog sees you getting ready to leave.
- Excessive howling, barking, or whining when you leave.
- “Accidents” indoors when you are gone, even though the pet is housebroken.
- Destructive behavior, such as tearing up or chewing furniture or walls, digging holes or clawing at windows and doors.
- Escape attempts.
Separation Anxiety For Cats
Cats may engage in one or more of the following behaviors:
- Goes into hiding when it sees you getting ready to leave.
- Excessive meowing or yowling.
- Extremely clingy.
- “Accidents” outside the litter box.
A pet with separation anxiety will engage in these behaviors every time it is left alone. Note, however, that some of these symptoms could also indicate that your pet has a medical condition and you may want to have your pet examined by your vet.
How To Mitigate Or Prevent Separation Anxiety When Returning To Work
You can help your pet’s separation anxiety by taking a few steps to prepare it for a return to the pre-quarantine schedule. By slowly adjusting your pet’s routine, you can help it reduce its anxiety over time so that it is much calmer when you do have to return to work.
Develop A Routine
Your pet derives a lot of security from a daily routine where your pet does the same things at about the same time every day. A routine is comforting to your pet because your pet knows what it is supposed to be doing. Whether it’s waking up, feeding, walking, napping, playing or going to bed – try to stick to a schedule for each of these activities to make your dog feel safe and comfortable.
Ideally, the schedule will resemble the schedule your pet will have when you go back to work. After only a few days, your pet will start to settle into its routine. When the day comes that you have to go back to work, your pet will feel less stressed.
Give Your Pet A Special Treat Each Time You Leave
Reduce your pet’s anxiety when you leave with a very special, irresistible treat. Whatever you use as the treat, it must be something that you only give when you leave. Your pet will quickly associate your departure with something wonderful happening.
An example of a super special treat for a dog may be a heavy duty rubber chew toy stuffed with peanut butter, banana, or cheese and some small pieces of meat. It’s a good idea to make several of these and keep them on hand in the freezer. Freezing them before giving them to your pet will prevent a big mess and will slow your pet’s ability to consume it. A special treat for a cat might be a catnip toy.
Give Your Pet Some Alone Time
Begin leaving your pet alone in another room or a crate for short periods of time — maybe an hour or so — each day at the same time. Act calm and casual, and don’t make a big fuss over the pet. As you leave, give your pet its special treat, but do not give your pet any attention. Once your pet adjusts to being alone, begin leaving the house for that period of time (being sure to give your pet its special treat) and then returning. Gradually increase the amount of time you are gone until your pet is comfortable with you being gone for a full work day.
If you are using a crate, learn how to use it humanely. Never leave a pet in a crate all day. If your pet is still overly upset when it sees you are about to leave, break the process down into smaller steps. Do one or two of the things you do to get ready to leave but don’t leave. For example, put on your shoes and then sit down on the sofa. Pick up your car keys and turn on the TV. You need to do these things several times throughout the day until your pet no longer reacts. Once your pet stops reacting as much, begin going into another room and close the door. Then immediately return. Don’t let your pet follow you in. Do this many times throughout the day.
Once your pet has lost interest in what you are doing, go outside for a moment and then return. Do this over and over until you can gradually increase the amount of time you are out without your pet getting overly anxious.
Remain Calm When Returning Home
As hard as it may be to do, ignore your pet for the first few minutes after you get home. Act like leaving and returning home is no big deal, and your pet will eventually stop associating your coming and going as exciting or anxiety-inducing events.
Consider Medication In Severe Cases
In some cases, a pet’s separation anxiety may be so severe, that many methods will not work. In these extreme cases, it may be helpful to consult with your pet’s vet to see about getting a prescription anti-anxiety medication for your pet.
Contact Paw Pals For Pet Care Services
As a responsible pet owner, you need to prepare your pet for a return to the days when you have to be gone for long periods of time. Get help from the pet care professionals at Paw Pals. They can ease your pet’s separation anxiety by providing companionship to your pet when you are gone and taking it on walks outside. Contact them for more information about how they can make the transition easier on you and your pet, and to find out what other pet care services they offer to the community.