Going from summer break to “back to school” can be rough for pets in any year. It’s likely to be a more difficult adjustment this year. Due to COVID-19, both big and little humans have been home more and longer, with new anxieties and frustrations. Our animal friends have been working to support and comfort us through all of this.
So when they find themselves alone for hours at a time, might some cats and dogs be glad of a break? Certainly.
Others, especially if they don’t understand what is happening, may be sad, anxious, or bored. You could be looking at a furniture-scratching, pillow-chewing, garbage-raiding, howling back-to-whatever-passes-as-normal.
What can you do to ease back-to-school, back-to-the-commute transitions for both of you? Here are some suggestions from the ASPCA and my own experience:
- Give the animals a treat every time you leave the house so they associate your departure with something pleasant.
- Stuff treats in a rubber toy such as a Kong to give them something to work on.
- Leave a radio on low volume. I like NPR for its calm voices and classical music, but if there is a particular kind of music your animal companion is used to or seems to like, go with that.
- Tell them where you’re going and when you expect someone will be home. They understand more than you think.
- Touch base during the day. You don’t need a phone or WiFi. Calmly bring your animal to mind, silently tell him you love him, and remind him of when you (or someone else in the household) will be home. Again — they get it.
- When you’re at home, remind the animal that even though things are changing and perhaps stressful, you are doing your best. Thank her for all she does to help you.
- Keep school backpacks and lunchboxes not just closed, but out of pets’ reach. Many animals are poisoned when they get into things like raisins, sugar-free gum, and inhalers. (For an accessible, authoritative guide to what is and is not poisonous to dogs and cats, I recommend the Vet Protect app developed by an experienced veterinarian. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play.)
- If your dog or cat’s separation anxiety persists, consult your veterinarian for help and to rule out any physical causes.
- Provided your animal has a clean bill of health: As an animal communicator, I can also work with you to prepare pets for change, resolve behavior problems, and gain other important insights. All sessions are done remotely. Visit me at www.njcrowe.com to learn more.
Here’s to a season of learning, however it may evolve, with the animals in our lives.