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How do I care for my pet when I’m not home?

It’s back to school season! Whether you’re going back to school or taking care of little ones (or big ones!) who go back to school, this can be a tough transition. The uncertainty of COVID-19 can also add undue stress. But now that many of us are going in-person back to school, what about our pets that are stuck at home?

Due to the pandemic, many pets have grown used to having their owners, or others, at home with them and your change in schedule/availability may create stress on your pets as well! Let’s not forget about our beloved pets as we make another transition in our lives during this back to school season!

 

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can occur when your pet has grown attached to your presence and now you’re suddenly out of the house more often than they’re used to. This anxiety can manifest into your pet’s destructive behavior around the home. They may also be more vocal, such as whining more often, or they paw incessantly at the door. Your pet may become more withdrawn, tend to hide more, or not eat as regularly as they used to. 

If you believe your pet is experiencing separation anxiety, talk to your vet or animal health care professional for guidance. It’s important to not assume that your pet will “get over it” or “get used to it” as time passes as separation anxiety can be a very serious issue and detrimental to your pet’s overall mental well-being! YouTube also has a wealth of informational resources from dog and cat experts/trainers who speak on this topic as well. 

 

New Rhythms, New Routines

When a change in your schedule occurs, think about how to recalibrate that change into your pet’s schedule as well. As a pet owner, you probably got into a schedule of feeding and taking your pet out to exercise or had a set time for playtime. A change in your schedule means a change in your pet’s schedule and they will need time to adjust. 

Mealtimes now may be set at a different time than what your pet is used to or they might notice that their playtime is not as sporadic/often as when you were home with them. Cats especially are habitual creatures so change can impact them more deeply. Your pet may resist the change in schedule. They may refuse to eat but then come whining at you 4 hours later when you’re deep asleep, or they may not want to play when you can play with them and are suddenly angsty 40 minutes later when you’re occupied. Give your pet time to get used to the change but also be responsible for creating and standing by your new rhythm and routine for your pet. 

 

Compromise

Like all relationships in life, sometimes we must reach a compromise with our pets. Have a high energy dog who just needs more time in the day to expend their energy? Consider opting for the higher intensity of exercising or giving them mental toy games. You might even need to enlist the help of friends or family to walk your dog, or commit to a dog walker. Have a cat who you can’t play with as often as they need because of your wonky schedule? Create ready to go play places for your cat to entertain themselves or lay out special toys that only appear during those specific times so they become special rewards for your feline friend. Of course, you can always enlist the help of friends or family as well!

 

Back to school season can be turbulent, even if you’re not the one going back to school! You may notice more traffic in the roads, the place where you normally get your lunch is a little busier than before, and even the stores you shop are now stocking up on school and holiday items! During these transitional times of your life, we hope you take care of yourself, but also don’t forget to take care of your furry family members who rely on you!