by Anna Haas ‘23
When quarantine began, people quickly turned to their pets for companionship and happiness. Pets have provided immense help by simply being there. But what is going to happen to them when families go back to work and school? Pets have become as used to people being home as their owners have to being home with them. When pets suddenly have to deal with an empty house for hours on end, it is possible that they will go through something called separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is when a pet experiences a feeling of anxiety or panic when they are separated from their owners. It is more than some whimpering or crying from an animal as you walk out the door. It is a major behavioral change that happens every time the owners are away. Some signs of separation anxiety that both cats and dogs display include destructive behavior particularly at exits like doors or windows, excessive pacing or vocalizing, or urinating or defecating around the house. Cat owners should be especially vigilant of their cat as the signs of separation anxiety they display can be very similar to their normal behaviors. If the owners think that their pet has separation anxiety, they should check with their veterinarian to confirm and go from there. However, there are many ways that pet owners can prevent separation anxiety from ever occurring in the first place.
According to the ASPCA, “One of the most beneficial tactics to begin practicing is to leave your pet pet alone for longer and longer times.” For example, the owner could start by leaving for half an hour and slowly work their way up to a few hours. Re-establishing the schedule that the owner had with their pets before quarantine is also helpful. If the owner has a dog, this would mean getting the dog back on the walking schedule the owner had before quarantine. If the owner has a cat, this would mean feeding them at the same time that they were fed before leaving for work or school. Leaving toys out during the day or having background noise on may help the pet as well.
Pet owners should all be aware of their pets’ behaviors after quarantine and be sure to get the pet the help they need from a veterinarian if need be. Pets have been their owners’ saving grace throughout quarantine, and owners should repay the favor by looking out for their animal.