During the pandemic, many people found themselves pivoting to a home office. If you’re one of these remote workers, your furry friend/coworker has probably been spoiled a little by having you at home the majority of the time. If your pet entered your heart and home after you began working from home, it probably knows no other way of life.
Now that there's light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, you may have recently returned to a traditional office situation or are about to do so — and you undoubtedly have questions and concerns regarding helping your pet adjust to yet another new normal.
One aspect of the old normal that hasn’t changed is that pets still experience separation anxiety when away from their humans. After all, they evolved to play a companion role in the lives of humans, and when you aren’t there, they’re unable to follow the call of their hardwiring, which can lead to pet anxiety.
Signs of pet anxiety include potty accidents, clingy behavior, destructive chewing and scratching, digestive issues, aggressive behavior, and increased vocalization. Fortunately, strategies exist for helping an anxious dog or an anxious cat transition to being a stay-at-home pet while you’re out slaying dragons. Here’s what you need to know:
A Tired Pet is a Happy Pet
Going for a long walk in a nearby park or playing a rousing game of fetch in your backyard provides an outlet for pent-up energy and elevates endorphins to help keep your pup calm during your absence. Morning sessions with a remote-controlled mouse will achieve the same effect for your kitty.
Consistency is key here—establishing a morning routine that includes fun and frolic gets everyone’s day off to a good start. Keep in mind that your pets will pick up on it if you’re stressed and anxious before going to work. Repeating the play sessions shortly after arriving home provides another time of positive structure.
Fuss Free Is the Way to Be
Although you may be tempted to offer your pet physical and vocal reassurance right before you head out the door and immediately upon your return, making a big deal out of leaving or returning home brings a note of uncertainty to the picture. A calm, matter-of-fact demeanor sends the message that there’s nothing unusual going on.
Interactive Toys Provide Pets With Mental Stimulation
Chewing and other destructive behaviors are often the result of boredom. Younger dogs should always be provided with plenty of options besides your shoes to chew on during your absence. You can make it more enticing by choosing a flavored chew toy.
Curious cats will stay engaged for hours when a puzzle is part of the picture, especially when tasty treats are the reward for solving the mystery.
Don’t Forget the Safe Space
Dogs and cats both feel secure in a den ambiance, so don’t forget to leave a crate open or otherwise create a safe, soft spot for them to sleep and relax while you’re gone. A comfortable dog bed or a creative cat condo that offers plenty of opportunities to climb, scratch, sleep, and play will help keep your pet relaxed and occupied.
Some pets may prefer to remain in their crate for the duration of your absence, but this may not be a good idea for young animals that can’t hold their bladder for more than a few hours. A better alternative is to leave the crate open in an enclosed space in your home with a litter box or puppy pads nearby.
Calming Products May Help
Anti-anxiety products for pets may help keep your furry friends calm and relaxed while you’re at work. These are available in many forms, such as chews, tablets, tinctures, and sprays. However, it’s essential that you purchase products specifically formulated for dogs and cats- human-grade products may have ingredients that are toxic to furry friends.
Keep in mind that the transition to being a stay-at-home-pet will likely involve a customized game plan involving all or some of the above strategies. Be sure to add plenty of patience to the mix, and within several weeks or even less, you’ll have a happy and healthy stay-at-home-pet greeting you when you walk in the door after a day at the office.