Covid and Pet: Back to Work Impact on Pets
COVID-19 has brought a great change to our normal lives, so much that we all had to adjust to the “new normal” and can only reminisce fondly about our previous social, work, and personal lifestyles. On the flip side, however, we get to stay with our loved ones! For pet parents and fur babies, working from home means happily spending countless hours in each other’s company, playing and cuddling with each other. In short, COVID-19 brought pet parents and fur babies closer than ever.
Returning to work
As businesses and offices are slowly opening up and asking employees to come in for work, pet parents immediately think of their fur babies. Pets think of you as their family and may thus have difficulty understanding why you have to leave once you return to work. Remember, they have likely become extremely attached and dependent on you, and any abrupt changes in this routine may disrupt and unsettle their sense of constancy. Having to spend some time away from your fur babies may cause them undue stress and anxiety, especially when you cannot communicate with them in a language they understand.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety occurs when your pets develop overly deep attachments or a dependence on your presence in their daily lives. This makes it slightly more difficult for them to cope if or when you have to be away from them for a certain time frame. For pet parents, it can be quite difficult to wean your fur babies from your constant presence in their daily lives, especially when they have had the chance to cuddle with you constantly for the better part of a year.
What are the manifestations of separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety can come in many forms, but the most common behaviors include:
- Pacing, whining, howling, and trembling when they are alone or when their pet parents are about to leave
- Destructive behaviors like chewing, scratching, and damaging items
- Unnecessary defecation and urination, even if they are already house-trained
- Frantic efforts to escape from the confines of their homes
How can you help alleviate separation anxiety for your pets?
As a pet parent who may one day return physically to your workspace, you must prepare your fur babies for this possibility. When that time comes, it is always best to avoid abrupt disruptions to your fur babies’ daily lives, as such sudden interruptions may cause them unnecessary stress. The transition from always being there to being present for a smaller portion of their day must be done slowly yet firmly. At the same time, you also need to take this opportunity to encourage your pets to be more active, courageous, and independent.
1. Create scheduled breaks.
You can begin to lessen the chances of separation anxiety by slowly leaving your fur babies alone for incrementally longer periods of time. As a start, a fifteen-minute break from you can get the ball rolling, which you can then gradually increase to half an hour, an hour, and finally, several hours. Eventually, your fur babies will get used to being alone and not need your attention all the time.
2. Exercise your fur babies.
Another way you can help get rid of excess energy is to indulge in a fun, physical activity for them. Whether it is walking your dog or playing with your cat, their energies will be totally spent once your activities are done, making them feel calmer when you leave.
3. Leave toys for them to play with.
In case your activities for them are not enough, you can bring out their favorite toys. Puzzle toys or even toys with food stuffed inside them provide both mental and physical pleasure points for energetic fur babies. Put these toys away when you come back so that they will associate your absence with these toys and food.
4. Leave a personal item with them.
Research shows that pets are mostly stimulated by the sense of smell, especially for dogs and cats. However, there are some instances where separation anxiety has led to pets destroying their pet parents’ articles of clothing. The undue stress leads pets to manifest their stress and take it out on any item that still has their pet parent’s scent. Having enjoyed your company constantly for over a year, your fur babies have gotten used to smelling your scent and have associated such smells with you being in proximity. Thus, purposefully leaving a personal item with your scent on it can help alleviate any lingering separation anxiety your pets might experience.
5. Set a reward system.
You can also thank your fur babies with a small portion of their favorite treat for being calm and patient after you come back. This will set up a routine and discipline system for them to be patient and well-behaved in your absence; after all, once you are home, they get a reward for being good boys and girls.
6. Stay consistent.
The key to a successful transition when weaning your pets from seeking your constant company is how consistent you are in your actions. Remember, your fur babies thrive on routines and schedules, and anything that disrupts such routines can cause stress and anxiety. Thus, the earlier you start to change your routines to fit in with the eventual return to your office, the better it is for your fur babies.
7. Start early.
The earlier you get your fur babies accustomed to new schedules, the easier the transition will be for them when work-from-home arrangements end, and physical work presence is required. A slow, steady, and smooth transition will make your fur babies less prone to stress, while at the same time making you, as a pet parent, feel more secure and confident in leaving them alone without any possible untoward incidents.
Established routines help your pets become calmer throughout the day, and the sooner you help your fur babies transition, the better. Ensuring your pets stay safe and healthy is the best way you can show them how much you love them. In turn, this allows your pets to be healthy, happy, and independent babies in a loving and caring home.