Preparing Pets Now for Life After Social Distancing

4 Tips for Reducing Separation Anxiety in Your Dog or Cat

Dr. Sandra Lyn
May 1, 2020 · 4 min read

With social distancing measures in place across the country and many of us working from home, our dogs and cats may be the happiest members of the household these days. Extra petting, treats and cuddles all day, every day means our pets are getting a lot of attention.

At Nestlé Purina, we believe pets and people are better together, and now is a great time to strengthen the bond we share with our pets — but it’s important to remember that one day soon, we will all return to work. This transition may leave your pet confused, sad or anxious, which can cause stress to the entire family, most notably your furry friend. Newly adopted pets in particular may be confused by the abrupt change.

In anticipation of this transition, it’s important to do what you can now to set your dog or cat up for a smooth transition later. Here are some tips for keeping your pets happy and healthy during and after sheltering-in-place.

1. Maintain a Routine

Pets benefit from routines just as much as we do. Chances are you already had some key elements of a routine in place before the current crisis hit. Continue as much of them as possible while you are home to keep your pet on a schedule so he or she knows what to expect at certain times each day. Feeding your pet his breakfast and dinner at the same times each day are great places to start. If you usually go for a walk with your dog at 6:30 AM, keep doing it now. Maintaining a routine will also help you cope with the changes we’re all experiencing.

If you are a new pet owner or are fostering a cat or a dog, now is the perfect time to establish a routine in addition to training and socializing her. The work you put in now will help ensure your pet — or someone else’s future pet — is happy and healthy into the future.

2. Schedule Time for Play & Exercise

Schedule designated play times for your cat or dog each day during times when you will be home once you return to work. Starting and ending the day by walking your dog, or having extra one-on-one playtime with your cat, can help maintain a sense of normalcy that can carry through once the crisis ends. Saving treats for these times instead of giving them throughout the day can help your pet look forward spending this dedicated time together.

Engage Your Pet’s Brain

Introducing brain games to your pet while you are at home can help engage them in self-directed play, which can be replicated when you return to being outside of the house more. There are plenty of brain games and puzzle feeding toys for pet online to purchase, or you can make enrichment games yourself at home using things like boxes, paper tubes and other supplies you likely have around the house. Here are 10 ideas from Purina enrichment specialist, Alex Johnson.

Encourage Separation at Home

Some cats and dogs will relish being in the center of the action while the entire family is at home, while others may prefer to hide. Either reaction is normal. Depending on your pet’s personality, you may need to take measures to create separation to avoid your pet developing separation anxiety later on.

For some pets, a closed door can send this message, while others may need to be reintroduced to their crates or encouraged to spend time in a calm, quiet part of the house for part of the day. Your pet can’t miss you if you never leave. It’s okay to go for your daily exercise without your dog, especially if you have already walked him several times and your dog no longer shows excitement when you say “walk” or pick up the leash.

Dogs and cats are great sources of comfort and love, especially in trying times. While they may be offering you emotional support now, make sure you consider their emotional needs to set them up for a smooth transition when life leads us back outside and our calendars become full again.

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