It’s a Mad World: Pet Separation Anxiety and “The New Normal”
There may have been some adjustments in the beginning of stay-at-home orders, but most pets have gotten used to their owners being around all day, every day.
However, many pet owners that previously sheltered in place are getting back to work, or heading to school for stretches of time their pets have likely forgotten about. Plus, many pets adopted right before or during quarantine haven’t fully experienced alone time. As a result, pet separation anxiety is a real threat facing our four-legged friends.
Common Pet Separation Anxiety Behaviors
Pet separation anxiety is a common behavior in both cats and dogs. It is a profound fear of solitude when an animal perceives that their special human is about to leave. Their fear triggers a range of symptoms, from mild and subtle to obvious and problematic.
Without owner intervention or veterinary management, pet separation anxiety can get out of control and take over an animal’s quality of life. Symptoms can also affect the human-animal bond.
What We’re Seeing
It is sweet when a pet displays attachment to their owner, but it can make them more vulnerable to stress and anxiety when you’re not together. If you’re wondering whether your pet feels afraid or anxious when you leave, take a look around the house for the following clues:
- Claw or scratch marks on woodwork surrounding doors, windows, and other exit points suggest that your pet is trying to get out in order to find you
- Destructive behavior, such as chewing up shoes or socks, digging, or scratching up furniture, shows a type of nervous energy that your pet doesn’t know what to do with
- House soiling
- Increased vocalization, such as whining, barking, howling and more
Some owners find what they’re looking for easily. Others may need to set up a pet video camera to really get to the bottom of pet separation anxiety.
Our world is dominated by terrifying statistics and harrowing new stories. Our pets can easily pick up on our stress and anxiety.
As a result, the Pet Experts recommend trying to stay as neutral as possible when trying to strategize your approach to pet separation anxiety. Give your pet the following opportunities to learn how to cope and find success:
- Take your time – show your pet patience and love.
- Start to leave the house for short periods of time, increasing your absence in 15-30 minute increments until they demonstrate control over any fear or stress.
- You can slowly start to desensitize your pet to the obvious triggers of pet separation anxiety, such as shoes, backpacks, briefcases, keys, and more. Leave them out while encouraging them to accept their sound and appearance.
- Exercise and play with your pet so they want to rest by the time you need to leave.
- Provide a food puzzle toy so they can occupy themselves with a brain game that has a tasty reward, like a peanut butter-filled Kong. This also helps them associate your departure with a positive feeling.
- Don’t make a big deal about leaving. When you arrive back at home, stay as neutral as possible so you don’t inadvertently reinforce the impact of your absence on them. Don’t give them attention until they are calm and relaxed.
- Laser tag, fetch or a nice walk is a great way to burn off steam at the end of the day.
Pet Separation Anxiety
It’s not easy to leave your pet at home, and definitely difficult to handle pet separation anxiety. If you need help, please let us know.
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