Separation anxiety in pets

Separation Anxiety Tips

Try to spend some time separate from your pet, building up time apart gradually.

Give your pet a safe area to retreat to and leave them with a 'job' to do.

Try to keep calm and seek professional help for your pet if required.

Understand separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is where pets are overly bonded to their owners and fret when left alone; common in dogs but some cats display symptoms too. 

Symptoms of separation anxiety
Common symptoms of separation anxiety include barking and whining, escaping and roaming, scratching at gates/doors, inappropriate toileting behaviour, chewing, digging and general destructive behaviour. Cats may sleep more than normal.
 In general, pets suffering from separation anxiety will begin these unwanted behaviours immediately after the owner’s departure.
It may help to:

  • Leave calming music e.g classical/reggae and lavender scents or try Adaptil or Feliway, pet appeasing pheromones.
  • Change your routines, so your pet does not respond stressfully from the moment you wake up.
  • Don't fuss before departure or when you come home. Keep calm yourself.
  • Hire a pet sitter, dog walker or use pet day care.
  • Create den-like areas for your pets; a crate for your dog, a box for your cat. Smaller areas make many pets feel more secure.
  • Leave your pet with an object that has your scent e.g. blanket.
 

Solutions for separation anxiety

Gradual separations
It is useful for owners to teach their dog to accept being alone. The following can help:

  • While you are home, leave your pet alone for short periods. Gradually build up the periods of time. Start at 30secs, if this is all your pet can cope with, and gradually build up to 30mins or more.
  • Only respond to your pet when he/she is quiet. Responding to unwanted behaviour will only reinforce that particular behaviour. Ignore unwanted behaviour and reward the “good”.
  • Leave your pet with a 'job' to do – a toy or some treats to find will keep them occupied for a short time (more time-consuming treats for longer times). This may need to be your pet’s favourite snack, as it needs to be very motivating.

 

Medication
Some pets are so stressed that they may need anti-anxiety medication, in addition to behavioural therapy. Talk to your vet.