Is Bailey dogging your every step? Do you notice Fluffy is more catty than normal?
Given the amount of time we have all been spending with our fur babies during the “Stay At Home” order, we can expect all our pets to experience Separation Anxiety.
While we wouldn’t trade a second of our time with them (right?), our transitioning back to lives outside of the home may be difficult for many of our four-legged family members. I know I feel anxious at times at the thought of this re-entry into the world. Can you imagine how they will feel? Will my cat be confused? Will my dog eat the entire armchair? Will our new kitty understand the abrupt shock of no more mommy all day every day? Will my pup be mad at me and think I’ve abandoned him? Will it just be too much for my older pet who isn’t in the best of health as it is??? UGH, such agonizing questions that I am sure we are all asking ourselves in one form or another. Never fear, below you will find a simple guide to answer these big questions.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety occurs most commonly when an animal is hyper-attached to their human and feels abandoned when they are separated from that human (e.g. when their human returns to work outside of the home). This can manifest in different ways for different pets, with some becoming more vocal or destructive, and others becoming more quiet. Some signs of separation anxiety include
- Vocalization: howling/whining
- Chewing furniture/ personal belongings
- Inappropriate urination (peeing outside the litter box or on owner’s clothes)
- Scratching at the door
- Refusing to eat
- Become quiet or withdrawn
Generally, these behaviors will start once you have begun your routine to leave the home, like picking up your keys or putting on your coat. For other pets, the behaviors will begin soon after you are gone and the realization hits that they are actually alone. Now, we know those sound like some daunting characteristics. Rest assured in most cases separation anxiety can be aided and even eliminated from the pet given the proper care.
5 Ways to eliminate Separation Anxiety in pets naturally
The following steps will help identify, ease, and treat separation anxiety in your pet to make the transition smoother for both you and your fur baby as you move into this new normal.
#5 Practice your “exit routine” without the exit
How many times have you gone to put your shoes on to leave the house and one of them has magically disappeared? That is because our pets KNOW what it means when we put our shoes on. Try doing the final few steps of your exit routine without actually exiting. Put on your shoes, grab your keys, wallet/handbag, and then stay home. Instead of leaving, give your pet extra loving, maybe a treat, belly rubs and reassurance. When you do this, your pet will start to disassociate those “exit actions” with you actually leaving the house. Do this several times a day as you lead up to the real exit date. If you have already begun working outside of the home you can still practice this technique during periods of being home such as evenings, weekends, etc.
#4 Good Old Entertainment
Think about it, we would be a little anxious listening to ourselves breathe all day while missing our favorite person. Give your fur baby some light entertainment while you are away. Whether it’s the radio, the TV, or even an audio book, leaving something on with a human voice will make them feel like someone is there with them. This is a simple way to really comfort your pet and give you some peace of mind knowing there is something to keep them company while you are away.
#3 Stay Calm.
Yes, simply stay calm. Humans emit pheromones that our pets can smell. These hormone-like chemicals tell our pets when we feel nervous, fearful, or anxious. Our anticipation of knowing our pets will be anxious when we leave can cause us to emit those chemicals adding to their separation anxiety. If you can’t help but feel worried about leaving them, pop a mint or piece of gum into your mouth to throw them off your scent.
#2 Pawsitive association
Who doesn’t love a new toy or that special reward when we do something grand? Pawsitive association works for our sweet kitties and slobbery pups too! Try purchasing a new toy that you only bring out when you leave. This will give them something positive to enjoy while knowing you are leaving. Is the way to your pet’s heart through their stomach? Have a special snack, like tuna juice for those kitties or the ol’ frozen peanut butter Kong trick for the pups. This will keep them busy as you head out the door and leave them with the fondest of memories of you as they snack away!
#1 Exercise and interaction with other humans.
Exercise and interaction are a fantastic way to build up your pet’s confidence and ultimately relieve much of their anxiety. Spending designated time walking your dog or playing with your cat before you leave will also tire them out, and a tired pet is a calm pet.
If you have been home around the clock over these last several weeks with little interruption in the time you spend with your pet chances are both you and your pet will feel a void when the time comes to part ways. Hiring a midday dog walker or cat sitter is a great way to make sure the transition is smooth for both of you. A dog walker will make sure your pup gets fresh air and great exercise to prepare them for the second half of their day while waiting for mom/dad to arrive home. A cat sitter can come by during the day for some playtime and a treat or two. Having “outsiders” come into the home will help your pet become more adaptable. This ultimately places less hyper-attachment on you giving you a happier, healthier, less anxious relationship.
If you are concerned with cross contamination when considering hiring a dog walker/cat sitter check out https://justaroundthecornerpetsit.com/dog-walking-pet-care-the-new-normal/ to learn all about the safety guidelines Just Around the Corner Pet Sitting and Dog Walking is implementing to keep our clients, their fur babies and our employees safe during these unique times. Together we can ease our pet’s anxiety.
Have experience with an anxious pet? Let us know how you helped them overcome Separation Anxiety in the comments below.