When the COVID-19 pandemic started, there was a significant spike in adopting and buying pets. Many people decided that this was the best time to get a furry friend since they would be spending more time at home. Being in a lockdown meant that you could take care of a puppy or a kitty, train them and most of all have company so that you wouldn’t be alone. But was this a well-thought decision for all new pet owners?
Don’t get it wrong — giving a home to an animal from a shelter or a pet shop is admirable. However, getting a pet is something you should carefully consider since you are not getting it only for the pandemic. Animals are very attached to their humans not only because they need them for their basic needs like feeding but because of the unconditional love they feel towards you. This is why a lot of pets that got used to their owner being at home all the time started suffering from separation anxiety once the lockdown was lifted. In this article, we will give you a couple of recommendations on managing this condition.
What is separation anxiety in pets?
A pet can suffer from separation anxiety when they are over-attached to their owner, and they get used to being with them all the time. People love their animals, and we would love to spend all of our time with them, but this is impossible in many cases when we get back to the office. Giving your pet the best is your goal, and this includes their food, care, and love.
When you got your pet, you researched what they would need and how to take care of them. Suppose you got a pet when a kitty, for example, you learned how to toilet train them, when to change their diet, how to play with them, and more. Choosing food for them was one of the first challenges. Our advice would be to check the rating before you buy any food, but even more, check if it is suitable for your cat’s age and consult your vet if your pet has any specific needs. If this was your first pet, you learned how to distinguish their favorite taste and toy, and you were so excited to see them grow. You spent almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with them when the lockdowns were in place. And your pet got used to this.
When we are slowly getting back to normal, many people are going back to the office, traveling more, and just not spending that much time at home. This might be a reason for a pet that is used to having you around to start experiencing separation anxiety. It’s a severe condition that many people are taking lightly and not addressing on time. You might think it is just a bit of whining or little mischiefs that they do when you are gone. But it is not — separation anxiety can lead to grave consequences like aggression, refusal of food, and more.
How to recognize separation anxiety?
The signs are very much depending on the character of your pet, but here are some common ones:
- Very loud whining when you leave the room.
- Non-stop barking or meowing.
- Not respecting the designated places for urinating.
- Mischiefs towards some of your favorite possessions.
- Heavy pacing and trembling.
- Drooling and panting.
- Chewing or scratching any surfaces.
- Attempts to follow you everywhere and even leave the house with you or after you to chase you.
Those symptoms might be annoying for any owner, but you need to remember that your pet cannot control itself. They feel the urge to do such acts because they are in distress, expressing themselves. If your furry friend shows one or more of the symptoms, you should act immediately.
How to manage separation anxiety in pets?
Unfortunately, when a pet starts showing symptoms of separation anxiety, many owners prefer not to manage this and just give their pet away. This is something that many people that got an animal during COVID didn’t think about — how will they take care of them once life is back to normal. If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, this task is becoming a million times harder.
There are small tricks that might help your pet get used to you not being home and manage their condition:
- Try not to be noticed when you are leaving or coming home — Don’t greet your pet hello or goodbye, and don’t make this a special event.
- Leave them a special treat that they will need to work on — There are many toys for dogs and cats, releasing a treat only if they solve something like a puzzle.
- You can leave some of your clothes close to their favorite spots so they can cuddle in them and feel your smell.
- Include small actions related to leaving in your daily routine — each animal will link your leaving with a particular action like putting your coat on and taking your bag or keys. Start doing those things sporadically during the day and observe if your pet will accept them easier with time.
- Try to make your absence longer with time — start with just a couple of hours and slowly increase the time you are away.
- You can give them some over-the-counter calming medicine or supplements if you are up to it.
If nothing from the methods above doesn’t work, seek a consultation with your vet and maybe a pet behaviorist or psychiatrist. Definitely don’t try to ignore those symptoms, cure them with aggressive measures, or take another animal. The first might negatively affect your pet more aggressively too, and the latter might make them think you want to replace them. And even more importantly — don’t give up on your pet and give them away. If they suffer from separation anxiety, they need you and your love more than ever.
Getting a pet is a big commitment that will last all of their life. Consider this when getting a companion, and make sure you are up for the challenge. If your furry friends suffer from separation anxiety — take care of them, show them your support, and battle it together. After all, you are their best friend as much as they are yours. And if you are lucky, they will have a long and happy life during which they will give you all of their love and affection.