Help Your Pets Adjust to Another “New Normal”
While one of the best parts about working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the extra time spent with our pets, it can also result in increased stress and undesired behavior issues as people return to work. This is especially true for those pets adopted during the pandemic as they’ve had little time to adjust to their new home before experiencing the stress of a change to their routine.
Signs of separation stress include excessive vocalization and destructive behaviors (chewing on furniture/walls, scratching at doors, etc.). For dogs, this can also include excessive panting or drooling. For cats, this can also include overgrooming to the point of creating bald patches or urinating on owner’s belongings. Please note that severe cases may require consulting with a veterinarian for medical help.
The Arizona Humane Society’s Behavior Specialists are encouraging pet owners to take action now with the following tips to ensure pets are able to adjust to yet another new normal after returning to work.
Set and Keep a Consistent Schedule
- Like people, pets are most comfortable when they have a reliable schedule. When it comes to walks and feedings, set the frequency and times on a realistic schedule you can stick to when you return to the office.
Practice Leaving Pets Alone
- Practice leaving pets alone for short periods of time by taking a short walk or drive. As your pet’s stress decreases, slowly increase the amount of time you are away until they adjust.
- If your pet gets excited or anxious when you grab your keys or put on your shoes (signs you are departing), help desensitize them by doing these actions and not leaving the house. Repeat this process until there is no reaction from your pet.
- While it may be tough, it is important to not react to your pet when leaving or returning to the house. This helps reduce excitement and stress in your pet. One helpful tip for those who find it hard to break this habit is to say goodbye to your furry friends well before you leave.
Create a Calm Environment
- Many pets have sound triggers that induce stress. To help prevent this, have white noise playing in the background such as the TV, classical music or a sound machine.
- Diffusers with pet appeasing pheromones can also be used to give your pet a greater sense of security.
- Leave an old shirt or blanket with your scent on it for your pet to cuddle with.
Mental Stimulation & Positive Association
- Keep your pet mentally stimulated with items such as puzzle feeders, snuffle mats, chew toys and scent games.
- Set aside daily play time and interactions with your pets. For cats, activities such as playing with a wand toy or fake mouse helps build their confidence and increases their bond with you.
- Create positive associations for things that normally cause your pet stress by giving special treats or toys that are used only during those times.
Smile, You’re on Candid Camera!
- If you think your pet may be experiencing stress when you’re gone, the best way to gauge the extent of it is to capture it on camera and intervene with behavior modification. This also helps ensure you have the right environment set up for their time alone.