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Mental Health And Pets: Helping Pets Cope When Normal Life Resumes

It is not only people who can suffer from anxiety; our pets can too. It is essential to understand how we can help them prepare for when lockdown periods are eased.

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of workers to work from home temporarily, and our pets must feel like all their Christmases have come at once! Whether we’re spending more time indoors due to home working or self-isolation, our pets have become adjusted to spending every day with their beloved families who rarely venture beyond the four walls of their homes anymore.

However, this working-from-home relocation won’t last forever, and this could be something our pets might not take lightly. So, when we resume spending more of our time away from home, how can we help our pets cope with the change in company and routine?

Can pets suffer separation anxiety?

Yes, pets can suffer separation anxiety from their owners. For pets that were accustomed to spending short periods alone before the coronavirus pandemic, adapting back to the way life was shouldn’t prove too disruptive. While they may miss your company at first, being separated from you is something they have experienced before, so resuming back to this state should hopefully go without a hitch.

On the other hand, for pets that weren’t used to being left to their own devices for short periods of time, this could cause a problem when life resumes to normal. For dogs especially, separation anxiety can occur if they feel apart or distanced from their guardians and people they love.

Warning signs of pet separation anxiety

Try to recognise and understand changes in your pet’s behaviour that may be signs that they are suffering separation anxiety. A common one to note is if they are causing a disruption or damaging the likes of furniture in your home when they’re left alone. More severe signs of anxiety or distress are if they are urinating, defecating, barking, digging, or try to escape from the house.

These distress behaviours may at first appear as though they have forgotten basic house manners and rules, however this is most likely not the case. In addition to the signs mentioned above, the likes of drooling, showing fear or agitation, or seeming sad prior to when you leave the house are more signs to suggest that separation anxiety is affecting your pet. 

Although the thought of our pets being sad in any way is an upsetting thought, there are methods you can use to help prevent this when the time comes to returning to work and life a usual.

How to prevent it from happening?

It is important to gradually make changes to help adjust back to life as we knew prior to Covid-19, rather than making a sudden and abrupt change. To help successfully achieve this when the time comes, there are small step to take to help your pets adjust.

The first step is to spend more time outside the four walls of your home away from your pet. By venturing out everyday and even resuming your pre-lockdown morning routine for work will help them ease back into the swing of things. You want to build up your pet’s tolerance slowly, so that when you actually return to work, your absence is less of a shock. Even making baby steps at first such as sitting in a different room to your pet for a few minutes a day will help build their tolerance for being alone for a short while again.

When you’re in the house the majority of the time, it’s likely your pets will want your undivided attention, and it’s difficult not to give in to their adorable faces! However, it is okay to ignore them from time to time so that they can build up a sense of independence and confidence without them relying on their human friends to do so. When you’re busy doing a chore or need some peace and quiet, make sure your pet has a quiet place to retreat to and encourage them to use it.

Another way to help them adjust is to keep feeding times the same as what they were prior to lockdown. By ensuring their feeding times are revolved around your usual work schedule, will help keep them in routine so that once resumed, this is one less adjustment they must get used to.

There are other ways to help your pet accept your temporary absence too. Some find that hiding treats around the house for their pets to find or switching the TV or radio on for some background noise helps keep their pet calm and relaxed. Finding what works best for your pet really is trial and error, however once the right method is found, your pet will have no problem being left in their own company.

Calmers could also be really useful so if you envisage spending more time away from your pets, SettleMe Support Chews, advocate for dogs & Liquid are effective ways to support calm behaviour and effective ways to reduce anxiety, stress-related behaviours, and over-activity in your pets.

This slower pace and gradual changes will make the separation much easier for both you and your pets. Too many changes could cause them distress, and this in turn could impact your mental health.

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