Managing pet-separation anxiety and boredom

Busy professionals/pet owners obviously worry about their pets’ wellbeing when they leave home for work.

Uncharacteristically clingy or destructive behaviour, pets vocalising their concerns prior to your departure or arrival, physical symptoms such as drooling or perspiring and displaying disinterest in eating could all be signs of anxiety and boredom.

Managing problem behaviour in pets stemming from separation requires the underlying cause to be addressed. Treatment plans can vary, depending on the individual pet and pet owners.

But Pet Circle Head Vet Dr Teagan Lever says dealing with separation anxiety is all about helping your pet become desensitised to you leaving and returning to the home.

“Lots of problem behaviours from separation anxiety and boredom, like barking, digging, scratching and destructive chewing, can also be avoided by providing your pet with things to keep them mentally occupied while you are away,” says Dr Lever.

If your pet is suffering from severe anxiety or stress, consultation with a positive-reinforcement trainer or behavioural veterinarian may be required — and a treatment plan developed.

But firstly, try these eight simple tips from Dr Lever to manage your pet’s anxiety or boredom:

Avoid making a fuss when leaving or returning home, as this reinforces anxiety
Ignore them for a few minutes prior to departure and upon return, then wait until they are calm before giving them some attention.

Don’t let your pet develop negative associations to your morning rituals
If putting on your shoes or picking up keys is a trigger for your pet, try doing these actions without leaving the house to teach them that it’s not a negative.

Trial time away from your pet when you are home
Give them a treat or toy, then go to another room and gradually increase the amount of time spent away.

Keep them occupied and reduce boredom with a long-lasting treat or interactive toy
Food puzzles and mats, dog-chew toys and laser- and motion-active cat toys provide mental stimulation when you’re away from home.

Playing music helps to calm and reduce anxiety in pets
Try leaving the radio or TV on with some relaxing soft rock or classical music. It can also help reduce their reaction to any unsettling noises they may hear outside.

Keep your dog physically active to manage behaviour
For those dogs that have been accustomed to long walks during lockdowns, a sharp decline in exercise may lead to excess pent-up energy, weight gain and frustration.

Try explorative feeding by hiding dog and cat treats/food in different places around the house or backyard
This will bust boredom and also help them exercise. Remember to use different levels for cats.

While training is essential, calming supplements, anxiety wraps and pheromones can help reduce your pet’s overall anxiety
For dogs, you try indoor pheromone diffusers and collars. For cats, use diffusers with a synthetic analogue of the feline pheromone and anxiety-management supplements.

If you are unsure what is the best option for your pet, consult the Pet Circle Vet Squad for free online advice or contact your local vet for further assistance.


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