The beginning of a new school year is a stressful time for everyone—adjusting to a new schedule can be difficult not only for the children, but also for parents and relatives who’ve gotten used to Summer routines. But that’s not all—even pets can feel the strain as they’re suddenly separated from the children who give them attention all day.
In worst case scenarios, your pet may even act out—you may come home to overturned furniture, claw marks on doors, or even messages from neighbors that your pet is making unseemly amounts of noise for hours on end while nobody is home. Back when pet behavior wasn’t too well-understood, this kind of behavior was just blamed on animals being animals. But nowadays we’re well aware of the fact that our pets experience separation anxiety, as well as how to deal with it. In Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Dr. Karen Overall defines separation anxiety as, “A condition in which animals exhibit symptoms of anxiety or excessive distress when they are left alone.”
Depending on the severity of your pet’s anxiety, separation anxiety can manifest in different ways. Some signs—especially in less extreme cases—may not be noticeable to you or other family members, since your pet is typically home alone when they occur. Other signs, however, might be apparent before you even walk out the door.
Here are some common signs of separation anxiety for both dogs and cats:
- Pacing and restlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Chewing/clawing of furniture or other household items
- Whining or yowling
- Inappropriate elimination (when they’re alone)
You may also notice dogs waiting for you by the front door when you get home, and even clawing and scratching at doors you close behind you.
What can you do?
Firstly, a visit to the vet is in order when you notice any of these symptoms. This will help rule out any hormonal changes or medical problems that could be the underlying cause. If your pet has been given a clean bill of health, then you can start getting them used to the schoolyear routine.
Getting them acclimatized to a new routine will help them adapt and settle down. Soon enough, they’ll be more relaxed and well-adjusted even in your absence. Exercise is one good option—bring your dog on a walk, or play with your cat in the morning before you head off to work. It’s easy enough to do either of these while enjoying your morning coffee, so it’s a multitasking win.
Give your pet a treat or toy when you leave—something that they will think is special, so they actually associate your departure with something good. It’s important to take back the treat or toy when you get back, so they know that it only comes out while you’re away. When you do leave, make it low-key—as well as when you get back. Ignoring your pet for a few minutes when you get home may feel a little mean, but it lets them know that your leaving isn’t the end of the world! It’s all part of a routine, and the faster they get used to it, the faster they’ll be happy.
Last but not least is hiring a pet sitter for when you aren’t around. Pet sitters not only provide stimulation and attention for your pets, they also monitor the pet’s health and behavior and can tell you exactly what your pets are like while you aren’t around. This can help you judge how well-adjusted your pet is, as well as give you a new way to socialize your pet.
Our Pet Nannies at Pet Nanny Inc are ready and waiting to help you and your pet adjust to the back-to-school blues. Follow us on our social media accounts or give us a call at 734-981-6108. Alternatively, you can use our on-line contact form and we’ll get in touch with you!