7 Tips for Post-Pandemic Life with Pets
After over a year of the pandemic, many of us are now vaccinated and getting back to “normal” life. Though we are looking forward to parties, restaurants, vacations, and even work, our pets now have to cope with us spending marginally less time with them. So, how can we help our pets adjust to this post-pandemic life?
Practicing Alone Time
Our animals have now spent a large chunk of their lives (potentially their entire life or entire time in our home) while rarely having us away. Due to this, many pets never developed or lost their tolerance for being alone. It’s important that you start helping your pets get used to spending time without you by their side.
In order to start getting them used to this, spend less time in direct contact with them. This may mean working in a room separate from your pet, and if you are crate training your dog, have them spend a few hours a day napping in their crate. Find reasons to go out of your home a bit more often than you would otherwise—work on your laptop in a coffee shop instead of the couch, meet a friend for lunch, go pick up take-out instead of having it delivered. Even being in the lobby of an apartment building you live in will help give your pet more time alone to learn how to “be” alone. The more practice they get, the less of a shock it will be once you’re truly back at work and/or away on trips.
Tips and Tricks for Being Alone
Your dog needs to learn that being alone isn’t a bad thing. When you begin practicing alone time with your pup, give them a special treat they only get when you’re leaving. This should be something high value they get excited about like a peanut butter stuffed Kong or bully stick. Give it to your dog and leave for a few moments, and remove the treat when you come back. Repeat this exercise and slowly increase the amount of time you leave your dog. The object of this exercise is for your dog to WANT you to leave so they can enjoy their special treat. There are videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to do this. You can also leave your pet activities to do, like hidden treats throughout the house or puzzle toys where they have to work to get food or treats.
Getting into a Routine
If you know you’re returning to work with some notice, try to get your pets used to the routine of you leaving at least two weeks in advance. Start waking up and getting ready at the time and fashion you will be when you get back to the office. If you’ve been giving your dog extra walks or cat extra snuggles, start scaling it back to the amount of exercise and attention they’ll be getting when you are no longer home. This may feel hard to do but it’s ultimately less stressful for your pets.
Don’t Forget the Cat
Though there have been many internet memes and jokes about dogs wanting us to stay at home and cats wanting us to leave them alone again, this likely isn’t how our cats truly feel. Cats are in fact social animals who enjoy human company and can be negatively affected by us leaving them more often. So make sure that you start a process to gradually get them accustomed to more alone time and understand they may show signs of separation anxiety as well as dogs. If you want some enrichment for your cat while you’re away, you can invest in some good scratching pads/posts, puzzle toys, and the old favorite, catnip toys.
Dog Walkers, Daycares and Pet Sitters
If you’re going to work long hours, and/or are just concerned about your pet’s well-being while you’re at work, you should consider making arrangements for them to be cared for. There’s an abundance of dog walking and pet sitting companies in Jersey City that can visit both dogs and cats once or multiple times a day for walks, playtime, and cuddles. For those who have dog-friendly pups who may be on the needier side, there are also a number of doggy daycares in the area where they can get human and canine attention while you’re at work.
When to Seek Help
If you’re like many other pet parents these days, you’re struggling to deal with the behaviors your furry friend may be exhibiting due to quarantine and working from home. This may include signs of separation anxiety, excessive barking/meowing/howling, being destructive in the home, going potty in the house, or being fearful or aggressive to strangers/guests or when on walks. If you feel too overwhelmed by your pet’s behaviors and don’t know what to do, or your previous attempts to help them haven’t worked, you should seek out a trainer or behaviorist. (And yes, cats are often seen by behaviorists for help too!)
Covid and quarantine have thrown all of us into a psychological tailspin, but with preparation, support and some creativity both humans and animals can adjust to post-pandemic life as we learn what our new “normal” will become!