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Home Alone―Pet Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety happens to a lot of pets when they’re left alone.  This can happen to any pet, anytime.  Dogs are especially affected by it.   Anxiety often happens to dogs when they are left alone at home, in a vehicle, or in some unfamiliar place.

You should be aware that your pet’s health and safety are at risk anytime and in any place if separation anxiety grips them.  And, if that weren’t enough, property and personal possessions might also be damaged or destroyed by nervous chewing or other undesirable behavior.

And now, the Covid-19 pandemic has made things even worse for dogs because dog parks and other pet-friendly spots, including groomers and dog walkers, are temporarily shuttered.  Our worlds and theirs are all topsy-turvy at the moment―our routines have suddenly changed. This is tough on our pets, especially dogs.  They sense our anxiety and fear.  With this sudden, unexplained change in routines, our pets may act out their anxieties.  They might do this by tearing things up, pottying indoors, trembling uncontrollably, etc.   No matter what they do, it’s up to each of us to calm our pets by loving them now more than ever.

That said, the focus of this post is really about pet separation anxiety―pre-Covid-19.   The thing is that no one knows why some pets suffer serious separation anxiety while to others it’s no big deal.  But, you can avoid the most serious problems, if you recognize the signs and know what to do.

Separation Anxiety Signs

Dogs and cats might express lots of different signs and symptoms when separation anxiety grips them―here are a few of the most common problems.

  • Nervous indoor pottying while you’re gone or about to leave without your dog
  • Chewing up or scratching your home’s fixtures, furnishings, or your personal belongings
  • Nipping, growling, biting, whimpering, or other nervous behavior (jumping, tail chasing, tail dragging, pawing, clawing, etc.) when the dog or cat knows you’re leaving

Tips and Tricks

Dogs and cats may display their ‘home alone’ anxieties in numerous ways.  But, there are some simple things that you can do that may help you minimize or avoid these problems.  Consider trying:

  • Positive reinforcement or conditioning―This can be something as simple as leaving the dog or cat with some favorite toys and/or safe treats. In this way you are reinforcing that home is a safe and familiar “den”. It’s also something that will keep them occupied while you are away so that boredom doesn’t set in too quickly.
  • Exercise and play―Before you leave take the dog out for a walk. You can play fetch or tug-a-war with your dog.  Rope toys, Frisbees, and Kongs are great for this.  If you have a cat, there are a myriad of great cat toys that will challenge and exercise your feline friend.  Laser and mouse toys are awesome for this.  Catnip works great for calming nervous felines.
  • Potty time―Nothing will unnerve a dog faster than being trapped indoors and having to pee or poop. Before you leave, be sure the dog has done his business outdoors.  Your morning dog walk is a great time for this.  Cats are much easier, just be sure the litter box is clean before you go.  For multiple cats, the rule of thumb is one litter box for every two cats.

 

The Wrap

Separation anxiety afflicts a lot of pets when they’re left alone.  The key to helping them is to love them, care for them.  Be their best friend.

Each of us has to make the best of things in these troubling times.  None of us knows when things will return to some degree of normalcy.  But, it’s been said that every dark cloud has a silver lining―so we now have more face time with our families, including our pets.  So, if you are well, then give your pet a hug and some lovin’ and take comfort in the loving companionship of your pet.  Our pets did not create this lockdown we find ourselves in, so make the most of it together with them.  Be happy your best friend is there for you in these uncertain times.

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