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Cats and Dogs, Quick Tips

How to Help Your Pet Cope with Separation Anxiety

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog

Fawn pug with a black mask laying on a beige couch

Have you ever returned home to find what looks like the aftermath of an off-the-chain paw-ty that you weren’t invited to? Your shoes are chewed, pillows mysteriously unstuffed, and… what is that smell? Before you get too angry, take a few deep breaths. Although it might look like your pet had the time of their life while you were gone, there’s a chance it wasn’t actually that enjoyable to them at all. Some pets suffer from separation anxiety, which could be at the heart of their destructive behavior.

Contrary to widespread belief, separation anxiety isn’t exclusive to dogs- cats can suffer from it also. Although their size limits the extent of the destruction they can impose, it’s not uncommon for cat owners to report their cat urinating on their clothing or furniture, knocking things over, or scratching up furniture when left alone.

We know it’s hard to leave the house knowing that your pet is at home missing you. The good news is that if you suspect your pet is suffering from separation anxiety, there are ways to help.

How to Help Your Pet Cope with Separation Anxiety

Make sure your pet is getting enough time with you

When you are home, how much quality time is your pet getting? Try to focus on giving your pet some quality attention every day. Make time to play their favorite games, get out for a walk, or spend some quiet time together grooming and petting them.

Give them an appropriate outlet for their feelings

If possible, get your pet out for a brisk walk or a game of fetch before you leave the house. Aim for 30 minutes or more of vigorous play or exercise before you leave, and you may find that your pet is much calmer as you walk out the door. Leave appealing, stimulating toys for your pet to play with while you’re gone. Think rubber chew toys that dispense food or treats or puzzle toys.

Make goodbyes calm and brief

The way you leave your home can set the tone for your pet in your absence. Work on making goodbyes calm and casual by avoiding excessive fanfare. Sure, it’s tempting to extend a 5-minute goodbye snuggle session to your pet, but a simple scratch on the head and “goodbye” might be a better option for a pet that is prone to separation anxiety.

Limit the time you spend away from your pet

If possible, limit the time you are out of the home, at least until your pet adapts to your absence. If you are lucky enough to live close to work, try popping home for lunch and a little bit of quality time with your pet. It could become the part of your daily routine you (and your pet!) look forward to the most!

Ensure the environment is safe

Some pets get so worked up they can actually hurt themselves. Before you leave, make sure your home is a safe place for your pet. Secure any items that could fall and get in the habit of scanning for anything that might be a tempting, but off limits, chew toy or treat. Be sure all food items are stored out of reach. In some cases, crating is the best option to prevent excessive destruction and keep them safe from accidental injury, at least until you have worked through their separation anxiety.

Work on instilling confidence and independence

When you are home with your pet, work on giving them some space and allowing them to become comfortable on their own with you nearby. Of course, you’ll want to spend plenty of quality time with your pet (see our first point), but you don’t need to give them constant attention. Try giving them a toy, allowing them to settle in and begin chewing or playing while you observe them, and then leaving the room. Begin leaving for small periods of time (30 seconds), and work up to longer periods of time (10 or 15 minutes). If your pet continues to play without displaying signs of stress, reward him or her.

Try a calming supplement

For some pets, goodbyes are always a little problematic. A calming collar or chewable supplement can help reduce stress and destructive behaviors in some cases and allow your pet to relax in your absence.

Separation anxiety can be just as difficult for the owner as it is for the pet. With a little bit of work, it’s an obstacle that you and your pet can overcome together.

In extreme cases help from a veterinarian or a pet trainer may be needed to fully address separation anxiety.

Does your pet suffer from separation anxiety? What did you do? Share your experience with us on our pet-lovin’ facebook page.

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