What if you were living the life of your dreams? You used to be lonely, but NOW your favorite people are always around and they’re paying lots of attention to you! OR, what if your nice quiet home has been invaded and you feel like you never get your quiet time alone? Either way, in our pets’ lives things are about to drastically change.
We humans have loved the opportunity to stay at home with our fur families during quarantine and most of our dogs love the extra attention. We can’t always say the same for cats since all that extra time at home can disrupt their nap schedules! But what happens when your dog or your cuddly cat gets used to having you around all the time but then you have to go back to work and the kids eventually go back to school? How will they react?
This sudden change may cause separation anxiety, especially for your pooch and can cause behaviors such as:
- Barking, howling, or whining when you leave
- A change in appetite
- Over-grooming or other potentially obsessive behaviors
- Scratching or chewing things around the house, especially entry and exit doors
- Other destructive behaviors
Fortunately there are some ways to get ahead of this behavior.
For dogs, try:
- Provide them with adequate toys, interactive puzzles, stuffed Kongs, so they remember how to play alone
- Play soothing music while you’re gone to keep them from being startled by noises
- Create a safe space for them where they can experience relaxing alone time… this could be in their crate or in a spare room that’s quiet
- Wear them out with some exercise before you leave for work
While it’s not as common for cats to experience separation anxiety, it can still be an issue. Prepare your cat for your return to work by:
- Playing with them, so they still have a “special” time with you
- Get their feedings on a schedule that will continue to work once you’re away again
- Avoid showing sadness at leaving since cats often feed off of people’s emotions
What can we do NOW?
Give your fur kids practice at being alone for parts of the day.
Start with short periods of time, long enough for you to go on a short walk or run a quick errand. If your dog or cat shows sign of panic, shorten the length of time. After several instances of this, you should slowly be able to start lengthening the time you’re away as they will start to trust that you’ll come back. If they bark or meow or start pawing at the door, only return once they’ve quieted down. It can be hard to resist running right back inside and consoling them but doing this will just reinforce bad behavior.
Follow a set schedule.
Get up, feed and exercise/play with your fur kids at a regular time so they can count what’s going to happen.
Remember that we are often experienced by our fur kids as the center of their lives. For many of them, the upcoming decreases in time spent and attention given will feel monumental. We need to help them navigate this transition. By preparing them now and planning for keeping them happy when they’re alone, we can return some of the support and happiness they’ve given us throughout what has been for many of us a challenging ordeal.