How to Help Your Pet Cope During Tumultuous Times
Several months ago pet owners were worried about sheltering in place with their pet. After all, everyone was set in their ways regarding their work and school schedules, including the family pet.
Cats and dogs dozed on the couch, looked out windows, sniffed around, and simply hung around until the family came home and dinner time approached. But as they do, life changed and pets and people alike had to negotiate a new schedule and dynamic.
Not surprisingly, most pets have been pleased with the results.
Now we have different challenges ahead as schools and businesses begin to reopen. These changes could mean that pets have to face solitude again for hours at a time. It’s not always easy to help your pet cope with all this change, but you can teach them how to handle this through a patient and prepared approach.
If your pet is not accustomed to seeing YOU in a mask, they might find people on the street in masks especially alarming. Even the most well-behaved dogs can become easily spooked by circumstances they deem new or threatening. Help acclimate your pet by wearing your mask here and there around your pets, give praise or treats and help them feel less anxious about this new facial development on humans. Do not assume you know how your pet would react if adults or children in masks stop to stay hello and get too close – help your pet with this transition!
A Place for Fear
This is a scary, unpredictable time for all of us. The animals that we live with can be incredibly intuitive and often pick up our feelings or moods. Amazingly, they bring comfort to us when we’re worried or anxious., but this can also make them feel equally upset.
Separation Anxiety in Pets
Our pets are creatures of habit and routine. When an event occurs that was not anticipated, they can become fearful, insecure, and depressed.
Pet separation anxiety is characterized by a profound fear of being alone. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. If left alone, behaviors can become more difficult to handle, decreasing a pet’s quality of life and diminishing the human-animal bond.
If you notice that your pet starts to cling to you as you prepare to leave the house, they may be feeling very nervous about any time apart from you. Other signs include:
- Increased vocalization, such as barking, whining, crying, etc.
- Hiding or withdrawal
- Soiling inside the house (or outside the litter box for cats)
- Escape attempts (look for scratch marks by windows and doors)
- Destructive chewing, digging, scratching, etc. of your furniture and other belongings
Help Your Pet Cope
Pets can be trained to entertain themselves and feel confident in their owner’s absence. Of course, it can be a huge ego boost to have your pet go bonkers when you leave the house and come home again. However, giving your pet attention during these events can inadvertently reinforce their behavior. Try to stay as calm and neutral as possible when you depart and arrive. Only give your pet attention once they calm down. Here are some tips:
- Start slowly with 15 minute increments. Once your pet demonstrates some control, increase your time away. This helps your pet cope with your absence, and helps build their trust and confidence in your ultimate return.
- Exercise your pet thoroughly before you leave and when you come back to help burn off their energy
- Leave them with a food puzzle, like a peanut butter filled Kong. This gives them something to do, rewards them for their hard work, and tuckers them out so a nap is imminent.
- Desensitize your pet to the appearance and sound of your shoes, keys, briefcase, etc. Leave these items out while you’re home, and even wear your shoes while hanging out inside together. This gives them a chance to know that these items aren’t always associated with your departure.
- Have someone, like a friend, neighbor or dog sitter/walker, come in to check on your pet if you think they need company more often than you can provide.
Will It Be Okay?
We understand that this is a frightening situation for pets and their owners alike. If we can assist you with any questions or concerns, we’re here for you at The Whole Pet Vet Hospital and Wellness Center.