Our lives seem to be slowly returning to normal, but how will our pets cope now that many of us are back at the office? Puppies and kittens that were bought or adopted during lockdown will have most likely never experienced being alone for long periods of time, so this newfound separation may cause behavioural issues in the form of anxiety or boredom. These behaviour changes could in turn lead to busy families abandoning their lockdown pet as they are more difficult to care for than they initially thought.
In fact, Dogs Trust has seen a 35% increase in calls from dog owners looking to give up their pets in the last few weeks, and traffic to the “giving up your dog” pages had jumped an astonishing 180% when compared to pre-pandemic visits. They have warned of a “looming crisis” on the horizon for pets purchased during lockdown – so what can you do to ensure your pet is happy and entertained as we head back to work?
- Slowly ease them into their new routine. Walk your dogs in the morning and evening as opposed to in the middle of the day like we could do when we worked from home and start feeding them at the times you will feed them before and after you go to work.
- Start spending more time apart. Encourage them to rest in their own bed or keep them in a separate room while you do something else. Try to keep interaction time for when you'll be available once your routine is back to normal, for example, in the evenings after dinner.
- Encourage them to occupy themselves. Interactive toys such as puzzle mats are great stimulation for both cats and dogs. Setting up a tall cat tree by a window can keep a cat’s interest for a long time. For small mammals, you could spread some healthy snacks around their enclosure to encourage natural foraging behaviours.
If you start to spot the signs of separation anxiety in your pet, consult your vet and a reputable animal behaviourist. With positive reinforcement, your pet should eventually be able to be without you for several hours without showing any symptoms of anxiety.
Remember, pets are family and a lifelong commitment. By keeping them mentally and physically stimulated we can ensure a long, happy life with our furry friends.