Has your pet been moping around the house since your kids went back to school?

It’s very common for both dogs and cats to suffer from “empty nest syndrome” and feel lonely when the summer vacation is over.

During the summer, there is always extra activity in the home with friends coming and going, and possibly even Mom and Dad taking time off from work for a staycation. And then - literally overnight- all that changes when school begins again, or kids leave home and go off to college.

Feeling the void

At least one in six dogs, along with a countless number of cats, will exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety or increased anxiety if they are already prone to the condition, according to Professor Nicholas Dodman, director of the small animal behavior clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, MA.

“Dogs and cats that enjoy human interaction and affection can become psychologically unglued – especially if their best human friend in the household happens to be one of the kids and suddenly that person ‘disappears’ and goes off to college. It definitely leaves a void in the pet’s lifestyle,” explains Dodman.

“The same applies when kids go back to school and suddenly their lives are so filled with activities that they no longer have the same amount of time for fun that includes the family pet.”

Signs of anxiety

Pets are just like children in that they love the structure of a routine. A common sign of anxiety in trying to understand what has happened to a favorite family member is pacing up and down, whining, and even constant barking.

Often a dog will scratch on a front door or one leading to the garage in an attempt to get out and find the absent person. Or you may come home to find the dog has overturned a trashcan or chewed your favorite shoes.

Cats are known for hiding their feelings better than dogs, but if your cat is usually happy sleeping in a favorite spot, she may suddenly start hiding for long spells and have to be coaxed out to eat and play. Some cats may also start to urinate and/or defecate outside the litter box.


How to help

Behaviorists suggest that the best way to handle the situation is to replace the routine that was in play during the summer with a new one to help pets adapt and settle down more quickly.

Exercise always helps. Consider taking your dog for a long walk in the mornings or engaging in some games of fetch before you head off to work. You can multi-task with cats by enjoying a cup of coffee and playing with a laser toy or wand in the other hand.

Move your cat tree to a position where your cat has a nice street or garden view and can watch all kinds of activity, from birds flying to cars driving by.

And there are lots of wonderful interactive toys for both cats and dogs that will keep them engaged and help while away the hours when they are home alone.

Kids should be encouraged to play with pets when they come home from school. You can even introduce after-school treat time so this becomes something your dog or cat looks forward to every day.

Lead by example and spend time with your pets when you come home from work, too. Bring out a special toy so that your pet begins to associate your arrival home with fun and games.

College isn’t for animals

While more colleges around the country are allowing pets on campus, allowing a college student to take the family pet with them is not always be a good idea from the pet’s standpoint.

The comforts of a home environment are often very different from student digs or on-campus housing, which doesn’t cater to pets. Students often live in smaller spaces and share sleeping accommodations.

Also, students, especially freshmen, have a lot going on, and it can take them time to adjust to their new lifestyle. Often they simply don’t have the time to spend with a pet. When college students are not in class, they understandably want to go off and spend time with friends, leaving the pets alone in a strange new environment.

Plus, taking a pet to college is a huge responsibility. College dorm doors are often casually left open and unattended, and pets, especially cats, can escape and get lost because the environment is unfamiliar to them.

Besides, having the family pet at home gives students something to look forward to over long weekends and school breaks. Pets will appreciate their homecoming, too.


Go here to see the original:
Helping Pets Cope With Back-to-School Blues

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