Our pets are like family. We cherish our time together and cringe when we leave them. For some pets, being left without their beloved family members can cause significant distress. Separation anxiety is a real issue in many pets, but, with a little work and consistency, there are solutions. Here are some suggestions, from Fido himself:
- Set me up for success — If you don’t want me chewing your favorite socks or scratching the front door when you leave, don’t give me the opportunity. Try providing me with a safe, comfortable space, free from temptations, where I can relax with my favorite toys. Never use this space to punish me—rather, show me that this space is a safe haven where I can relax throughout the day. If you leave me an escape route, I may go hunting for mom’s expensive shoes, so keep this in mind when you plan my confined area. Remember that, while I enjoy my freedom, boundaries help me feel safe and secure.
- Don’t change my routine too abruptly — I live a simple life. Generally, I eat, play, go potty, and sleep. I know the way around my house and yard like the top of my paw. I know that when Susie wakes up in the morning, my meal is waiting for me shortly after. What I don’t understand is why one morning I was fed breakfast an hour earlier while everyone was rushing around. Or, why, a while back, I woke up in a completely new house, or why the taste of my food suddenly changed. These are big changes in my humble life that can be stressful. Next time, try to gradually introduce me to a new breakfast schedule, consider taking me to the new house to sniff things out a bit, or slowly change my diet by first mixing the new food with my old, beloved kibble. Give me some time to adjust.
- Distract me — Save my absolute favorite toys for times when you are getting ready to leave me alone. I especially love when you stuff one of those hollow toys with frozen peanut butter and treats—it occupies me for hours. Sometimes you leave the television or radio on for me, and this helps me feel like I’m not alone. When you leave the curtains open, I can happily birdwatch and spy on my furry friends next door. But, some sights, like those pesky squirrels and the mailman, may set me off on an obnoxious barking spree and annoy our neighbors, so you may need to check whether that is a good thing to do. What can I say? Some things get me worked up.
- Don’t make a grand exit — When you exuberantly pet and coddle me right before walking out the door, you remind me that your exit is a big deal. I handle separation better when you hide all the clues that you are preparing to leave. Place your briefcase, keys, coat, and other materials out of my sight, give me something enticing to keep me occupied, and quietly gather your things and leave. I will be less likely to sit, paw at the door, and whine if you don’t dramatize your departure.
- Take me to the veterinarian — The accidents I’ve been having in the house may be due to my excitement when you arrive home. Or, maybe I am urinating in the house out of spite because you left me. Either way, it’s probably best to have me examined by my veterinarian to rule out a medical cause for my behavior. Remember Fluffy the next-door cat who was howling all night long? It turns out, she had a thyroid disease that was causing her strange behavior. My vet may also have some more tips to help keep me calm when I’m alone.
These are only a few of my ideas, and perhaps the friendly staff at Billings Animal Family Hospital have others. Feel free to contact them or schedule an appointment for me.