How to get your cat or dog ready for the school year
Long, sunny days. No school. More humans around, especially the little ones. For pets, summer is when they can count on more belly rubs, back scratches and nose-to-nose fun.
But now that the school year is approaching, how will your cat or dog react when their humans go back to school?
Young dogs and cats, especially pets brought home during the COVID-19 pandemic, may not have been exposed to as much alone time as usual. When their beloved human companions head back to the classroom after a summer of fun, what’s a lonely pet to do?
Let’s take a closer look at steps pet owners can take to help cats and dogs avoid separation anxiety during back to school season.
Will your cat or dog miss the kids when they go back to school?
Each animal has a unique temperament, but dogs are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety than cats. In fact, nearly 20 percent of the 80 million dogs in America have separation anxiety, according to Dr. Nick Dodman of Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
Cats tend to be more independent by nature, and may even relish being the king (or queen) of the castle again each fall. Still, changes in routine can upset them.
Whether your pet is more of a social butterfly or likes their alone time, there are steps you can take to ease the back to school transition for them.
Your pet may have been through a similar transition before, if your household worked or learned at home for long periods during COVID-19 and then returned to work/school. If your cat or dog successfully transitioned back then, think back to the process you used and repeat that again.
Signs of separation anxiety in pets
Watch out for these signs of separation anxiety in your dog or cat:
- Chewing, biting or licking at paws excessively
- Drooling more than usual
- Refusing to eat or drink while you’re gone
- Packing back and forth
- Whining or barking more than usual (dogs) or increased vocalization when people are leaving the house (cats)
- Accidents with housetraining or missing the litter box
6 Tips for Easing Your Pet’s Back to School Separation Anxiety
Based on the American Veterinary Medical Associations guidelines, these tips will help you and your pet adjust to the changes of back to school time.
- Get on a schedule ahead of time. A consistent routine helps your pet feel safe. Introduce the new school year schedule a week or two before school starts to allow time to adjust.
- Practice leaving the house. Do trial runs where you leave the house without your cat or dog for short amounts of time. This helps them adjust to the fact that when you leave, you will eventually come back. Try to make the time you leave and come back similar to what it will be once school starts.
- Quality time. Set aside time in the morning for walks or play sessions before school activities, to help tire out your pet. A tired pet is a happy pet (and a less destructive one).
- Keep your cat or dog occupied while you’re away. Puzzle toys, chew toys and other toys that provide mental stimulation will help keep your pet busy.
- Create a safe space. Having your pet stay in a contained area can be less stressful for the pet—and you. Crates and pet gates can create a comfortable area where your pet feels secure. If your pet hasn’t used a crate before, this is a good time to introduce one. Start with short periods of time and include lots of rewards so your pet associates the crate with good things.
- Ask your vet. If your efforts don’t seem to be working after a while, call your vet or ask a veterinary behaviorist for more help.
Other options for daytime animal care
Does your dog do okay socializing with other dogs? If so, consider daycare for your dog during the day. Even a doggy daycare visit once or twice a week can help dogs burn off extra energy and reduce anxiety.
Dog daycare isn’t cheap, but it can be a bargain compared with the destruction a stressed dog with separation anxiety can wreak on your house. Plus, after a day of hard playing, dogs tend to sleep well once they get home.
For dogs who don’t like group play, another option is to ask a family member to stop by or hire a pet sitter or dog walker to come to your house. They can give your dog a bathroom break and maybe even some snuggle time during the day.
Natural Supplements for Pet Separation Anxiety
Cats and dogs with separation anxiety can benefit from additional nutritional support. For a safe, holistic approach, try homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements. These all-natural medicines have no side effects like prescription anxiety medications.
We love these all-natural remedies to treat separation anxiety in pets:
PetCalm™ is an herbal supplement for pet anxiety that reduces nervousness in pets. It comes in easy-to-administer granule form and immediately calms anxious, stressed pets. PetCalm™ improves emotional balance and reduces distress during scary situations.
Scare-D-Pet is a homeopathic medicine that soothes anxiety in pets who are afraid of loud noises, like thunder or fireworks. It temporarily relieves nervousness, excitability and hyperactivity.
Aggression Formula™ is a natural medicine for disruptive pet behaviors such as excessive biting, scratching and barking/meowing. It temporarily reduces behavior problems in nervous cats and dogs. Aggression Formula™ supports feelings of calm and helps your pet’s ability to relax during stressful situations.
Pet owners also love Brain Health™ herbal supplements, which come in age-specific and species-appropriate formulas to support brain and systemic function. Brain Health™ is available in special formulas for senior dogs , puppies, adult dogs , adult cats and kittens , and senior cats. Brain Health™ encourages concentration, memory, alertness and learning, and reduced risk of cognitive decline as pets get older.
It’s been a long summer of fun and frolicking with your pet, but now it’s time to adjust to a new schedule. The ideas above can help you and your furry friend make the back-to-school transition as easy as possible for both of you.
- Nelson, V. “How to get your dog ready for the back-to-school routine.“ PetSmart Charities. Accessed July 19, 2022. https://petsmartcharities.org/our-stories/trending-tales/how-to-get-your-dog-ready-for-the-back-to-school-routine
- “Pets Can Get the Back to School Blues.” CBS News. Accessed July 19, 2022. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pets-can-get-back-to-school-blues/
- Willis, J. “Pet Health: Back-to-school time can trigger separation anxiety in pets.” Colorado State University, James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Accessed July 19, 2022. https://source.colostate.edu/pet-health-back-to-school-time-can-trigger-separation-anxiety-in-pets/
- “Back-to-School Separation Anxiety.” Petfinder. Accessed July 19, 2022. https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/dog-problems/back-to-school-separation-anxiety/
- “COVID-19: 7 steps to help your pet prepare for your return to work.” American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.avma.org/news/press-releases/covid-19-7-steps-help-your-pet-prepare-your-return-work