Home Alone – Reducing Pet Separation Anxiety

How to prevent pet separation anxiety post lockdown

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease and life slowly starts to return to normality, many pet owners will be returning to the workplace and spending less time at home. This could be an anxious and distressing time for those pets who have enjoyed the increased time with their owners at home since the pandemic began.

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Separation anxiety, or separation-related behavior (SRB), is a fear of or anxiety towards being left alone. How severely your pet experiences this anxiety can differ between animals, however the things you can do to help remains the same.”

Establishing new routines

“We all respond well to a routine, and our pets are no different. Establishing a new regime before you make the switch from working remotely can be a great way to ease your pet’s anxiety as you move over to life back in the office. Waking up and going to bed at your normal time if you were going to work, spending more time in another room, or taking a short trip out during the day are gradual steps that can lead to a big impact in the long run.

“Use the same actions every time you leave, so your pet learns what to expect, such as closing doors, putting on your coat or picking up your car keys. These small indicators will help your pet be more relaxed when your normal work routine resumes, as they will have become used to you leaving and coming back. When you return, try not to be too animated with your greeting (no matter how much you’ve missed them!) to make your return less eventful in their day. The aim here is to normalise your pet’s alone time as ‘no big deal.”

Feed their boredom
“Keeping our pets engaged and stimulated during the hours we aren’t with them is a great way to stop them from getting bored or worried. Leave out activities like destruction boxes and enrichment feeders to keep your pets entertained while simultaneously improving their physical and mental wellbeing, however, make sure the items your pet is left to play with are pet safe and not potential choking hazards or if swallowed going to cause an obstruction. We recommend leaving a variety of activities and exercises out, so your pet has lots of options to choose from, and try to change them from day to day. It’s also important to remember that dogs shouldn’t be left for more than 4 hours at a time. If you’re going to struggle to pop back to see them during your workday, dog walkers could be the vital support you need when making sure your pets’ needs are met while you’re out.”

Creating a relaxing environment
“Create a relaxing environment for your pets that is in a secure, safe and quiet area of your home. We recommend using a plugin diffuser or a collar that releases natural calming pheromones to create a tranquil space that helps ease any midday anxieties. Leaving an old item of clothing with your scent on close by can also act as a familiar reminder of your presence, and a symbol of comfort. In short, create a space where you’ll be jealous of your pet for spending some of their day there!”

PDSA is the vet charity for pets in need, preventing unnecessary suffering through treatment and education. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps PDSA reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. To support the charity’s vital work, visit pdsa.org.uk

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