With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, more people are shifting from home offices back to central and business offices. Workplace routines will be altered, including the deep bonding and comradery developed between at-home workers and their pets.
Adjustments, after more than a year of work at home for some, will follow the workplace shift, and pet owners should keep their animals in mind to help them cope with change that could be startling and lonely.
Pets, especially dogs and cats, may act out and misbehave because of the change, according to Denver Animal Protection. Measures should be taken to relieve animals’ stress, which in turn could help avoid a rush of disgruntled owners from placing pets in shelters.
If possible, a slow and steady transition will help animals to better adjust, said Erin Wyse, an animal behaviorist with DAP. Owners can make changes before the shift, in anticipation of going back to the office or out-of-home workplace.
Create a routine — “Dogs and cats can be creatures of habit so you can help them with the change by creating a routine. Make that routine as close to your new work schedule as possible,” Wyse said in a news release. “Wake up, feed and walk your pet as if you’re going to work for the day. Try not to feed them or walk them during hours you’d normally be at work. And if you crate your dog, start having them take naps in their crate again. Slowly wean them off your constant company.”
Remove anxiety from departure — Instead of immediately leaving a pet alone for eight hours or more, start working up to it. Daily two- to three-hour separation stretches practiced before a full-day shift could help ease the transition. “Your pet will get used to you being away and that you always come back,” Wyse said. “If you can, start acclimating your pet as early as a month in advance.”
Keep pets engaged — Help pets combat the boredom of longer stretches alone by giving them small treats or toys every time you leave the house. Owners can hide treats throughout the home that pets can find during the course of the day. Keeping a television on, or music softly playing, may soothe the beast in our pets. If possible, set your pet up with a window to the outside world so they can watch the day pass by and not feel as lonely.
Exercise — Take your pet for a walk, get them outside before you leave, it will be good for the both of you. Burning off energy will help keep your pet more relaxed while you are gone. Pet daycare is an option for animals, especially dogs who are social. Dog and cat sitters, and walkers — professional, family or friends — could visit and engage pets.
Watch for stress — For dogs, signs of stress include pacing, panting, barking when alone, destructive chewing, accidents, and attempts to escape a crate, pen, or even the home. Cats manifest stress through excessive meowing, house soiling or spraying, hiding, aggressive behavior, excessive grooming, and destructive scratching. Owners should pay attention to signs of stress and work with pets so they can overcome fears and stop acting out. Patience by owners will help pets adjust more quickly. Pay extra attention, and give some affection, to animals when your workday is done.
Consult a veterinarian — If calming measures fail, see a veterinarian. Vets can prescribe medications that can calm a pet and help ease a difficult transition, Wyse said. A positive-reinforcement pet trainer may also help.
The adjustment period for our pets could take up to about four weeks, Wyse said. Owners who pay attention and take measures can help their pets to better adjust and more quickly recover as we collectively move on from the pandemic. Pets that kept company with owners and brought joy to people during our stay-at-home phase must not be discarded. They should be cared for and treasured.
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