Summer is winding down, and the kids are headed back to school. Although your pet may be older and has experienced the back-to-school routine a time or two, the abrupt schedule change can still throw them for a loop. They’ve become accustomed to lazy summer days spent with the entire family, and now they’ll be left home alone for hours on end. A sudden schedule change, reduced activity, and decreased mental stimulation can cause your furry pal stress and anxiety. Before school starts this fall, learn how to help your pet cope with your kids’ return to school with the following four tips.
#1: Gradually switch to a school routine with your pet
Pets thrive on routine, and a sudden change in their daily schedule can make them stressed and agitated. Ensuring your pet knows what to expect throughout the day can go a long way toward alleviating undue stress, and preventing anxiety-induced behavior issues.
A couple of weeks before school begins, sit down with your family, and discuss the school schedule, and how your pet fits into this new routine. Determine who will feed your pet in the morning and evening, who is best suited for walks and playtime, and who will take care of your pet if extracurricular activities interfere. Then, put the tentative schedule into practice. Each day, wake up at the time necessary to ensure the family is ready to leave for school and work, including ample time for pet-care tasks. Feed your pet at the same time every day, and incorporate play and exercise into the schedule where time permits. If possible, leave for a few hours during the day to acclimate your furry pal to being home alone.
Practicing a new schedule in advance allows you to see any pitfalls that need correcting, plus your pet will feel comfortable with the gradual change. Better yet, your kids will be used to the new routine, helping the first day of school go off without a hitch.
#2: Create time for play and exercise with your pet
A pet with pent-up energy who is left home alone all day can be a recipe for disaster. Bored pets can become destructive pets, while a tired pet is typically a happy pet. The best way to ensure your four-legged friend is happy and relaxed while the family is out of the house is through plenty of play and exercise. Rather than saving all the fun for the weekend, squeeze in as much activity as you can before or after school. Take your pooch on your morning jog, sneak in a quick game of fetch, or tire them out with a round of tug-of-war. For your cat, play with a feather wand or a laser light, encouraging them to get up and get active before it’s time for another cat nap.
#3: Keep your pet entertained when they’re home alone
After a summer filled with fun activities and family time, your furry pal will likely feel bored at home alone. Instead of rushing out the door, offering your pet nothing more than a pat on the head, create some activities that your pet can perform on their own. Shop around for various treat puzzles for cats and dogs, or freeze peanut butter, spray cheese, or canned food in a rubber Kong overnight for a tasty diversion. Your cat may appreciate a sprinkle of catnip on prey-shaped toys, providing them with hours of play that caters to their natural instincts. Both species can also have fun hunting for strong-smelling treats hidden throughout your home.
If your family will be gone most of the day, you may want to consider a pet sitter, dog walker, or doggy daycare to help keep your four-legged friend entertained, and to break up their boredom. Only a few days of outside help a week will give your pet a chance to socialize and play, instead of being home alone.
Also, consider leaving on music or the TV for your pet. Summer days are usually filled with activity and noise, and the sudden quiet can cause anxiety in your furry friend. Turning on some music or a pet station while you are gone can make your pet feel less alone.
#4: Squeeze in as much quality time as possible with your pet
The summer was full of quality time with your pet, from hikes in new parks, to snuggles on the sofa. Now that your pet is so accustomed to your constant companionship all summer, they likely will feel a bit neglected when the kids return to school. Spend extra time with your furry pal, to help them adjust to the new schedule, and still feel loved. Go for extra-long walks on the weekend, sneak in an extra TV episode’s worth of cuddles before bedtime—simply spend extra time together with your pet, doing the activity they love.
Going back to school is a big adjustment for everyone, particularly your pet. Ask our Tidmore Veterinary Hospital team for additional suggestions on how to ease the transition for your pet, especially if they are displaying excessive anxiety or stress.