With students back into their school and college routines often means that pets, after being surrounded by a lot of household activity during the fun summer vacation months, can suffer from empty nest syndrome that brings on feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
“When dogs feel anxious, they will often start pacing up and down, begin whining and even bark non-stop. Some will even scratch on a door in an attempt to get out and try and find their favorite people,” explains Dr. Kurt Venator, a veterinarian with Nestlé Purina Pet Care Company.
Cats hide their emotions better than dogs and, as a result, will often disappear for long spells. If your cat is normally content on the couch but suddenly invisible, seek her out; this can be a clue that she is missing favorite family members.
“Pets love a routine because it makes them feel secure. Thus, it’s important that pet owners help get their pet acclimated to the change by replacing the old schedule with a new one, such as allocating time to play with them after work or keeping a consistent schedule when coming and going from the house,” says Venator.
If you come home to find trashcans overturned or that your dog has been destructive chewing shoes or the couch, these are signs of stress and loneliness. Some pets, cats included, will excessively lick themselves and even pull out clumps of fur.
Accidents inside the home are another clue. Some cats will even stop using their litter box. While this is a sign of stress, it can also be a medical issue so be sure to follow up with a veterinary visit too.
According to Venator, a loss of appetite is another very common sign of pet stress and anxiety. So are physical signs of illness such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Sometimes the level of stress is both cats and dogs is gradual so it’s important to be vigilant of your pet at all times.
Some Quick Fixes
Burn off energy. Play with your pet before you go to work in the morning. In dog terms, this means a nice walk to start the day. The longer the better because afterwards he will be happy to go off and snooze when you go off to the office and the kids go off to school. Your cat will enjoy a game with a wand toy or a laser. It’s easy to multi-task and play with your favorite feline while you are drinking your morning coffee. However, remember if it’s a laser game, be sure to treat your kitty too because laser games don’t allow her to catch anything and keep it!
Create an interactive environment. Both dogs and cats love comfort toys. Dogs will often carry them around in their mouths before settling down to “nanny” them. Cats will appreciate anything with catnip or the another kitty “mood enhancer” such as silver vine, an Asian plant now grown in America.
There is also a huge selection of interactive toys for dogs and battery-operated feline toys that can be set to go into play mode at regular intervals. Puzzle toys are great for both cats and dogs too because they can be filled with treats (or a portion of their daily meal) because they offer pets both great mental and physical stimulation.
It’s also a good idea to move your cat tree to near a window so that your cat can watch the activity in the garden or on the street. Also a fish tank can provide fun entertainment. But be sure that it’s sealed so that your pets don’t go fishing …
Turn up the tunes. Leaving soothing music on at your home can help ease anxiousness as it will help drown out distracting noises that your pet may mistakenly associate with the kids coming home from school or other family members returning from work. There is special bioacoustic music for both dogs and cats composed by Joshua Leeds and Lisa Spector called Through A Dog’s Ear and Through A Cat’s Ear.
Spend time with your pet. It’s important to remember that while you may have had a long day, your pet may have been sitting at home feeling lonely waiting for you to come home. Spending some quality time with your pet at the end of the day is critical to helping keep them active and mentally sharp. It may be tough to fit into a busy work schedule, but be sure to build some interactive time – whether it’s a walk or cuddle session – to show your pets you care.
Besides, this is a great way to enhance your bond with furry family members.
I was invited to attend a special Google hangout with Dr Kurt Venator organized by Nestlé Purina Pet Care Company. However, I wholeheartedly endorse his advice on this importance topic and am sharing because of its importance to all pet parents.