Fun-filled days of romping with the family, frisking in the yard with the neighborhood kids, snuggling late, and sleeping in… these are the moments family pets often live for. So it’s not surprising when school starts and the house empties out and falls silent, that many pets find themselves confused, sad, and even frustrated.
Just like us, pets can get nervous, upset, anxious and lonely. The difference is, most pets don’t have the comfort of knowing you’ll be back when you leave, nor do they understand that the chaos of change will eventually settle into the comfort of a new routine. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your kids to make your pets feel secure in ways they understand.
What to Expect
How your pet reacts to the sudden silence of an empty house can vary greatly. They may become mopey and depressed, clingy and vocal, or even aggressive and destructive as they try to make sense of their perceived abandonment.
Typically, this behavior should only last a week or two, just long enough for your pet to adjust to the new norm and settle into the school-year routine.
How You Can Help
Just as there is a no one-size-fits-all reaction to the back-to-school blues, there’s not a universal solution for the problem either. What your cat or dog needs to cope with the change will depend largely on your pet and what distracts and delights them.
Some pets may be consoled with a Kong stuffed with peanut butter to keep them occupied throughout the day, while others may respond best to some dedicated one-on-one play before and after school to help burn off the nervous energy and connect with their people.
Other tips for easing the transition are:
- Ease into the change—Not only will your kids benefit from easing into the new schedule, but so will your pets. Establishing new routines before the school year starts will help alleviate the stress of sudden change, and may even remind a vetted pet of what is to come. These changes should not only include the family’s schedule, but your pet’s new schedule for feeding and watering, play, and potty breaks, too.
- Walk to school—If you are lucky enough to walk your children to and from school, consider taking your dog along as well. Not only will your pet enjoy the exercise, but also it can be beneficial for your pet to see where the kids are going and that they are happy there. However, be mindful of your pet’s temperament. The schoolyard can be a sea of unfamiliar hands and faces looking to “pet the puppy,” so be certain that your dog can handle the stimulus with ease.
- Keep calm and carry on—Most pets are notorious for internalizing their owner’s emotions. This means that if you and your kids make a big deal out of saying goodbye, your dog (or cat) will perceive the sadness and fear and internalize it as well. Make your farewell’s upbeat and loving so that your pet knows there is nothing to fear.
- Welcome Home—Encourage your kids to engage with your pets as soon as they get home. Not only will the time mean the world to your attention-starved pet, but it will help your child stave off some of his or her after-school energy as well.
Keep it Consistent
Pets crave the stability of consistency, and keeping on-schedule will help your pet adjust to the changes with relative ease. Regardless of what schedules and strategies you adopt for getting your pet through the back-to-school blues, keep them consistent. Once the chaos and commotion of back-to-school becomes the new norm, you’ll find that your beloved pet will likely be back to his or her old self in no time.
If you have any other questions or concerns about your pet’s schedule or back-to-school anxiety, please give us a call. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have, or schedule an appointment if needed.