You’ve heard it said – our animals have been pumped that so many families are spending extended time at home. For several weeks, we have enjoyed spending more time with our animals, and it will be sad for everyone when we return to our normal at-work schedule.
If you’re anything like many pet parents we’ve talked to, you might be experiencing some nerves or anxiety about leaving your animal at home for extended periods of time. This is normal, and the best way to calm these nerves is to start preparing early.
Our office veterinarian, Dr. Mary Manspeaker, and our staff animal trainer, Marianne Spengler, agree that our animals are adaptable! Unless you fostered a new animal or adopted a puppy or kitten, your animal previously spent days at home while you were working. They will adapt back to their old routine. That’s not to say that we can’t help prepare them for a smooth and comfortable transition.
Marianne and Dr. Manspeaker have several recommendations for all animals, as well as a few important signs to look out for. Dr. Manspeaker also shared several special circumstances and additional factors to consider if your animal falls into one of them. Let’s dive in!
Tips to help ease your animal’s transition:
Just like humans, animals appreciate regularity! When you’re preparing to make a major schedule shift, start slowly easing your animal back into a routine. Our goal is to help you prevent negative animal behaviors – like going to the bathroom in the house or destroying household items – because they can damage our relationships with companion animals and can ultimately lead to animal surrender. Implement the following changes a few weeks or days before you go back to work.
Once you’re back to work, monitor your animal closely.
Here’s the soothing truth – most of our animals will adjust perfectly to our new schedule, especially if we prepare them for the transition. In rare cases, there are some things you might need to discuss with your vet. Here’s what Dr. Manspeaker recommends you look out for:
If your family falls into one of the following circumstances, then there may be a few more things to consider as you’re preparing to head back to work.
Leaving a puppy or kitten at home for the first time?
Animals that are familiar with work schedules will more easily transition back into old habits. But if you’re like many families who adopted a puppy or kitten during quarantine, your animal will experience the transition differently. It is important to remember that your animal is still in a training stage – some puppies and kittens will be further along in this process than others. Know that accidents will happen, and work to emphasize positive behaviors whenever possible. If you are not already crate training your animal, consider starting the process now. This will help limit relationship-damaging behaviors like property destruction and accidents in the house. Be patient with your young friend! They are learning how to cope with the world and need your help to adapt.
Is your animal exhibiting signs of loneliness or separation anxiety?
If your animal has separation anxiety, they may experience more intense feelings when you return to work. How your animal expresses this anxiety can vary – from excess barking to lethargy, destroying household items and decreased appetite – but it’s important to note if your animal is acting out of sorts. One strategy for these animals is to consider adopting another companion animal. Dr. Manspeaker says especially social animals that are intensely bonded to their humans can benefit from having an animal companion to bond with.
Does your dog have difficulty holding its bladder or bowels?
Older animals and smaller animals may have difficulty holding their bladder and bowels while you’re away. If you’re able to arrange for someone to let them out during the day, that can help prevent unwanted accidents in the home. Know that some accidents might still happen, though, and pursue alternate measures if your animal has regular accidents after a few weeks of adjustment. Always watch for stool consistency, frequency of urination and other factors and alert your vet if your animal’s bathroom habits are abnormal or irregular.
Are you fostering an animal?
If you’re currently fostering an animal, we thank you for your support! Our foster families are a lifeline for our animals awaiting placement in their forever homes. Sometimes, adjusting to new circumstances can be especially challenging for our foster animals, whose life circumstances prior to rescue might complicate their behavior. As you transition back to work, we encourage you to continue fostering, if at all possible. Spending time in a home is a great benefit to our animals and is one of the best ways to promote adoption. Use the recommendations above to create as smooth of a transition as possible, and consult the Humane Society if you have any questions.