Our furry companions have enjoyed a summer of play and bonding with their loved ones. However, as the back-to-school season approaches, it’s not just kids who experience the back-to-school blues.
Major routine changes, such as the shift from summer break to the school year, can trigger separation anxiety in our canine and feline friends. Shockingly, this condition affects an estimated 20 to 40 percent of pets seen by veterinary behavioral specialists.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Pets:
If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, watch out for these behavioral signs:
How to Alleviate Separation Anxiety in Pets:
Pets thrive on routines just like their human family members. Consistently leaving and returning home at the same times each day can help your four-legged companions adjust to changing circumstances and reduce their separation anxiety.
Schedule specific play sessions for your pets daily. According to Dr. Venator, positive reinforcement plays a crucial role here. Rewarding good behavior and discouraging bad behavior during playtime with occasional treats and verbal praise can be highly effective.
Taking your dog for a walk or engaging your cat in interactive games before leaving for the day can also help ease their anxiety. After exercising, pets often feel ready for a nap, providing an ideal opportunity for your departure.
While some may label it as “crazy pet parenting,” turning on the TV or playing music when you leave home can be a helpful strategy for treating separation anxiety. Background noise from music, television, or even audiobooks or podcasts can offer engagement and distraction. The presence of human voices through these audio sources can alleviate feelings of loneliness in pets.
Puzzle feeders are excellent tools to reduce anxiety and mentally stimulate your pets. Each morning, fill the puzzle feeder with half of your pet’s recommended daily food portion and refill it in the evening. This keeps your cat or dog busy and engaged throughout the day, helping to alleviate anxiety.
Another option is to hide small portions of dry cat or dog food in bowls around the house. Dr. Zara Boland, a Purina veterinarian, recommends measuring out your pet’s daily food amount and dividing it into smaller portions hidden around the house. This hide-and-seek game can particularly benefit cats, stimulating their hunting instincts and keeping them active and occupied.
As the pack leader, your demeanor influences your children and pets. Prolonged goodbyes can exacerbate separation anxiety in your pets. Instead, keep farewells brief and affectionate each time you leave. Your pets, along with your children, will follow suit.
If you or your pet struggle with short goodbyes, try offering lots of petting and praise 10 to 20 minutes before your departure. By doing so, you can leave without feeling guilty, as you’ve already bid farewell.
In cases where sudden departures are necessary, and there’s no time for a walk or setting up a game, provide your pet with a favorite toy to keep them engaged.
By implementing these strategies, you can effectively alleviate separation anxiety symptoms in your pets, helping them feel more at ease when left alone at home.
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