Written in partnership with Fear Free.
Ask any pet parent about their COVID-19 experience and chances are one silver lining of the pandemic and its stay-at-home order is all of the quality time they were able to spend with their pets while working from home. Now the question is what happens when everyone goes back to the workplace and pets have to stay behind at home?
According to our friends at Fear Free, some pets are more susceptible to experiencing separation distress than others. Even though each pet is different, and some will require more preparation than others, we’ve compiled some helpful tips for every pet parent to consider.
Before You Leave
Ideally, you will have at least a few days’ notice before you’re expected to return to the workplace. Spend the days leading up to your return preparing your pet in these ways.
- Leave your dog alone for a few minutes at a time, especially if you’ve been taking them on a lot of walks during the day. Take a walk around the block without your pet, so they start to get used to being home alone. Leave for a few minutes at a time and slowly start to work up the amount of time you’ll be gone.
- Jingle your car keys randomly and set them back down. Do this a few times a day to prevent your cat or dog from associating the sound of your keys with you leaving.
- Make sure your pet has a safe and comfortable space to spend their day. You likely already have a bed and crate for them but consider making it extra comfortable especially during your first few weeks back at work. This could be as simple as putting a new toy in their bed or giving them a special soft blanket to cuddle up with.
While You're Gone
- Before you leave, set out a puzzle toy or two for your pet to keep their mind busy throughout the day.
- Consider hiring a dog walker to take your dog out during the day.
- If you have the means, get a pet camera to keep an eye on things while you’re gone. Some of the fanciest cameras even let you communicate with your pet.
- Create a Spotify Pet Playlist for them and let it play when you leave. Just answer a few questions about your pet, like their name and temperament and Spotify will use those answers and your listening habits to create your pet’s own playlist. And it’s not just for dogs; the music service offers playlists for cats, iguanas, birds, and hamsters
When You Get Home
- If you have a dog, go for a walk soon after you get home. You’ll both enjoy getting out of the house and burning off energy. It also gives you both something to look forward to at the end of each day.
- If you have a cat, get the toys out and play! We know cats like to play on their own terms, so if this doesn’t happen right when you get home, that’s okay, just try and work in some quality cat time into your nightly routine.
- Ask your neighbors if they heard any barking, howling, scratching, meowing, or other noises coming from your home while you were gone. (Along those same lines, if you’re close with the people living around you, it wouldn’t hurt to give them a heads up before you head back to work. If you’re comfortable, ask them to keep an ear out for any strange behavior they may overhear from your home.)
- - If you notice your pet is having accidents when you’re gone, chewing on inappropriate items, scratching windows and doors, or drooling excessively, keep an eye on the problem. If it continues, you may want to reach out to your vet.
No one can be sure how things will look once everyone is back to work, but we hope you find some comfort in these words from Steve Dale, a certified animal behavior consultant:
“Leaving your dog home alone periodically is the right thing to do for your dog because ultimately few of us are home all the time, and life will ultimately return to normal.”