Last year, shelters and breeders across the country saw a huge increase in pet adoptions, which is always a good thing! Working from home with a furry friend at your side can help soothe stress and anxiety in both humans and animals. But one thing to note, especially in new puppies, is the lack of socialization available when their people are social distancing.
This year, we’re getting ready to return to “normal” (as normal as can be, anyway!). People are gearing up to return to work if they haven’t already, and spend more time away from home… and away from their pets. What does that mean for pets who spent the past 12 months side-by-side with their pet parents? It could mean separation anxiety, stress in animals that result in destructive or unhealthy behavior.
Other Causes of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can be triggered by more than just their beloved pet parents leaving the house. Dogs and cats are sensitive creatures and can be triggered by other situations as well:
Changes in Schedule: Pets rely on stability and routine, and sudden changes can be quite upsetting. This can do with parents abruptly going back to work outside the house, changing dog-walk schedules, and other time-related changes.
Moving Homes: When changing your residence, has your cat ever been known to hide under the bed for a day or two before cautiously testing out their surroundings? Yep, that’s also a mild form of anxiety! But this can apply to pups, too.
Change in Household Members: Whether you’ve had a roommate move away, a new roommate move in, or a family member leaving the family unit suddenly, it can trigger separation anxiety in pets.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
Consistent barking, whining, and howling when left alone
Urinating or defecating outside of the litter box for cats, or inside the house for dogs
Destructive behavior: clawing, digging, chewing, or otherwise destroying household items when left alone. This behavior is particularly dangerous as it can also result in self-harm.
Escaping or running away
Pacing around, over and over
Pet Waggin’s Pet Tips for Separation Anxiety
First and foremost, it’s important for pet parents to practice patience with their fur-babies. Dogs and cats never want to intentionally upset you, and they’re not trying to punish you for leaving. Getting upset with them will never lead to productive results!
On the other hand, neither should you shower them with exaggerated praise and love upon your return, as this might only further confirm to them that their guardian being home is good, and their guardian being gone is bad.
Here are some other ways you can help treat their anxiety:
Crate training: A lot of pet parents think it’s cruel to crate their pets. While it’s not for every dog, most dogs thrive. It’s a safe place for them and can help keep them under the threshold of stress and anxiety. If you can get your dog used to enjoying their safe space, it can start to feel like you leaving the house is a positive thing! Remember, though: using a crate requires dedicated training and time before they’re left alone.
Try giving them chews, new toys, puzzle feeders, and snuffle matts. These all can help distract, engage, and stimulate them. Ultimately, you want to give them something they can use to work out all their energy, good and bad.
In severe cases, especially in pets who already suffer from anxiety or are predisposed to anxiety, you may want to consult your veterinarian about medicinal options. There are also a number of over-the-counter supplements that can help alleviate stress, like Pet CBD Oil.
Focus on your own self-care! Pets feed off our energy. When you’re upset, they’re upset. Isn’t their compassion one of the reasons why we love them? So it only makes sense that to care for your animals, you must first care for yourself. Check out some of our self-care tips here!
Our last tip? Schedule in more walks with Pet Waggin’ Pet Care. Giving your pups the opportunity to walk with someone else is a great way to add in extra and new stimuli, and let them release their energy.
And when pets are dealing with separation anxiety (and especially if new pets haven’t been properly socialized), it becomes even more important to hire a professional pet sitter. Time away from home means learning to socialize with other humans and learning how to cope without their beloved pet parent. And hiring us can give you the break you need to work on that self-care!