Pandemic Puppy or Quarantine Kitten?: Combating Separation Anxiety
Many people got pets during the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down. When it’s time to go back to work, your pet could suffer from separation anxiety because it is used to you being home all the time. The best way to deal with separation anxiety is to stop it before it begins. However, if this is something you never thought your pet would experience and went back to work only to find significant destruction when you came home that first day, you can work with your pet to diminish its separation anxiety.
Before You Go Back to Work
If you know you are going back to work in a week or two, you can start working with your pet to combat potential separation anxiety. If your pet is not crate-trained, start crate-training now. You can feed your pet in its crate without shutting the door to get your pet used to the crate. After your pet willingly goes into its crate, start shutting and latching the door for a few minutes at a time while you are near the crate.
Work up to 10 minutes before you walk away from the crate. Then, walk into a different room for just a minute, then come back. If your pet doesn’t show signs of anxiety, go out of the room for a longer amount of time. Once you work up to a half-hour or so, go outside. You might make a quick run to the store – 15 minutes or so, then come home and see how your pet is doing. Work up to longer periods of time away.
Once you can leave your pet in the crate for a few hours, it should adapt to the longer period when you are at work. The first few weeks, you might have someone check on your pet a couple of times per day.
After You Go Back to Work
When you are gone, you won’t have much time to crate train your pet to keep it from tearing up your walls or furniture. If you work close enough to home during the first few weeks, use your lunch break to visit your pet. You might ask a friend or neighbor to check on your pet a couple of times each day, lessening the time he or she spends each time.
Tips for Helping Reduce Anxiety
Sometimes certain things help reduce a pet’s anxiety, whether it is crated or not.
- If your pet does not chew blankets or pillows, you might put a favorite blanket or pillow in its crate or, if you are not going to crate, on the floor.
- Leave the television or radio on for your pet during the day.
- Ensure your pet has plenty of water, but keep in mind that your pet can only “hold it” for a certain amount of time. With cats, provide litter boxes. The general rule is that a puppy can “hold it” for about an hour for each month of age with dogs. It is best to ensure that your puppy is fully house-trained before you go back to work or have someone walk your puppy at least three times per eight-hour day. A visiting friend will also help reduce anxiety.
- Make sure your pets have toys to play with that do not require constant supervision. If your dog is a power chewer, you’ll need to find something it doesn’t chew.
- If you have a dog, be sure it gets plenty of exercise before you leave for work. Remember, “a tired dog is a good dog.”
In some cases, you might need to medicate your dog or cat. Medication is the last thing you want to do, though in cases of severe separation anxiety, you might have to go this route for a few months.