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Home Alone: How to reduce stress for pets when you head back to work
 Posted: 06/01/20 2:09 PM by Shelly Simmons

As more people begin to return to work, we’re all making some quick lifestyle adjustments. Our pets need some help transitioning too!

Try these tips to get dogs prepared for a little more alone time once again: 

  • Create a safe, comfortable place where they can have peaceful, relaxing alone time. This could be a crate or separate room, just make sure it’s the quietest part of the house. Check out our Crate Training Guide
  • Provide them with enrichment that can be enjoyed independently, such as hidden treats in boxes, food puzzles, stuffed Kongs, etc. Check out this Enrichment Guide for ideas. While the guide was originally created for heartworm positive dogs to find ways to safely release energy, these tips are helpful for all dogs!
  • Play soothing music such as reggae, smooth jazz, or classical, or play the TV or radio to stations like the BBC or NPR while you’re gone to keep them from being startled by outside noises. You can also try a white noise machine.
  • Reward your dog for calm, independent behavior (especially if they’re usually clingy). We tend to pay attention to dogs only when they’re active or even misbehaving. They should be rewarded for being calm and chill.
  • Practice leaving for short periods of time to run essential errands or go for a walk:
    • If your dog shows signs of panic, decrease the amount of time that you leave, even if for just a few seconds.
    • If your dog barks or paws at the door when you leave, come back only when they’re quiet.
    • If your dog has trouble being alone for even brief periods of time — consult a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) who usually do virtual consultations.

Even though they are stereotyped as being more independent and aloof, cats shouldn’t be left out of the plan. Despite stereotypes that say otherwise, many cats form very close bonds with their humans and can become quite stressed when apart.

Cat separation anxiety signs include excessive vocalizations, over-grooming, and eliminating on their owner’s items in an attempt to mingle their scents together.

Try these tips to help your cat transition to less time with you: 

  • Engage your cat with a wand toy at least once a day. Allowing your cat the opportunity to hunt, catch and kill with an interactive toy will help build their confidence and strengthen their bond with you in the healthiest way possible.
  • Ensure that whatever adjustments you’ve made to their routine while you’re home are sustainable when you go back to work. If you’ve started feeding your cats 4 times a day while you’re home, start cutting it back to what is doable when you’re not working from home.
  • If you’re not already using them, introduce puzzle-feeders to your cat. Cats instinctively want to forage for their food and puzzle-feeders satisfy that instinct while providing fantastic enrichment during alone time.
  • Cats feed off from people’s emotions. So, when it is time to go back to work, making a big, sad, dramatic scene as you leave is only going to make them feel more stressed. A happy, light tone and a little treat as you leave will keep their spirits up.

By taking these steps now, pet owners can help prevent stress for both themselves and their pets in the future.