6 tips for easing post-pandemic separation anxiety in pets

6 Tips for Easing Post-Pandemic Separation Anxiety in Pets

As the world inches toward a return to normalcy, more people are heading back to the office. After more than a year of lots of quality time with our furry friends, many pet parents are concerned about leaving pets home alone.

Our experts at Mars Petcare say it’s smart to start preparing your pet now for your eventual return to the office, especially since some might need more time—or a different approach, like support from an animal behavior consultant.

“Even if your pets coped well with being home alone before the pandemic, they also acclimated to a new normal: Their human at home all the time,” says Dr. Tammie King, a pet behaviorist at Mars Petcare. “Refamiliarizing these pets with a routine will help ease the transition. If you adopted a new pet during the pandemic, it’s possible your pet has never experienced any extended amount of time away from their people. You can help alleviate potential anxiety in pets with a little preparation.”

Here are our 6 top tips to prep your pet for some alone time:

Create a safe space 
Designate a safe area for your pet (like a crate or utility room) and make it comfy and fun with a bed, toys and water. Practice briefly leaving your pet with a treat (it helps them learn good things—like treats—happen when you leave!) while you go to another room. Return and release them without making a fuss. As your pet starts to adjust, gradually extend the time you’re away. 

Commit to quick departures
Prolonged goodbyes may increase your pet’s anxiety, so keep them low key—this approach helps your dog or cat stay calm and teaches them to worry less when you’re gone. 

Develop a consistent, predictable routine
Establishing a routine like the one you’ll have when restrictions relax helps your pet adjust with less stress. Schedule regular walks, games, meals and alone time now to help prepare your pet for later.

Keep their bodies and minds active 
An exercised pet (especially dogs) will likely find it easier to relax while you’re away. Take a long walk and play games like fetch to help them expend some energy. Keep their mind busy with activities like food-dispensing toys—it keeps them from getting bored while you’re away. 

Leave your scent
Sometimes a blanket or shirt with their pet parent’s scent helps comfort pets—consider adding one to their safe space.

Turn to tech
Leave the TV on or play music—the background noise can help soothe your pet. You can also install a camera to check on your pet during the day.

It’s important to realize anxious pets might bark excessively, become destructive, or use your favorite rug as their indoor toilet. They aren’t being spiteful, and yelling or admonishing an anxious pet will only make them more afraid. 

It’s also vital to understand these tips might not work for all pets, especially extremely anxious ones. Talk with your veterinarian to create the right plan for your pet.

By adjusting our routines now, the transition back to the office will be easier for pets and for people!