Helping Your Pets Adjust When You Go Back To Work

Allison Provo, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline®

Wow, that a scary, stressful time we are living through right now. COVID-19, a global pandemic, has hit us hard. Many may find themselves worrying about their own health, their elderly parents, their jobs, and their pets, just to name a few. No, our animals have not had to adjust to working from home, attending meetings  via a virtual platform such as Zoom, deal with the frustration of IT issues, worry if they will still be employed by the end of this, or stress over the dwindling supply of toilet paper. But, their lives have been affected, too. Some dogs are probably overjoyed that their owners are now home more. Other dogs may be stressed that their daily-3pm-bark-at-the-mailman-routine has now been disrupted by an important work meeting. Cats probably enjoyed the extra snuggles and treats initially, but they are likely wondering when everyone will be leaving again. Their 20 hours per day of sleep is likely being interrupted. Probably about the time the animals settle into their new routines, many owners will be returning to work outside of the home. Let’s talk about a few ways we can help them with the transition.

  • Routine: Animals do really well when they have a routine. Establishing a set morning routine and evening routine may help them adjust. They may start to realize that when they hear the alarm clock go off and the coffee pot starting up, their owners are going to work. They may also start to look forward to the routine when you get home. They may start to understand that they may be alone during the day, but when my owners get home, we have dinner, go on a long walk, get my hair brushed, or play fetch outside.
  • Exercise: This one applies mostly to dogs, unless you happen to walk your cat with a harness and leash. Taking your dog on a long walk before leaving for the office may help with the adjustment as well. It helps establish their routine, but it also gives them attention and exercise. One of my favorite sayings is, “A tired dog is a good dog.” Hopefully getting some morning exercise will help prevent them from being destructive while you are gone. Exercise also helps with anxiety, in both people and animals. It will help for everyone to get outside, get some sunshine, and stretch their legs.
  • Human Interaction: If you work long hours at work, it may help to take your dog to doggy daycare or hire a dog walker. It may also help to come home on your lunch break, if you are able to. Giving the animals some treats and reassuring them that you will be back soon can help make the days not feel so long and lonely to them. If you are not able to come home mid-day, there are also cameras on the market that make it possible for you to talk to your pet as well as throw them a treat.
  • Distraction Activities: New toys may help with the adjustment as well. It will give the animals something exciting to look forward to and helps distract them and prevent boredom and loneliness. Kongs filled with a tasty treat, lick mats, interactive toys, new mice toys to chase are all great ideas.
  • Anxiety Assistance: If your pet is really having a lot of anxiety and a rough adjustment, talk to your veterinarian. There may be medications, supplements, pheromone diffusers, thunder shirts, and other options to help.
  • Lot of Love: Giving extra attention to your pets when you arrive home will help, too. Lots of belly rubs, treats, pets, and reassurance are all helpful. Maybe try digging the red laser out of the drawer and play a game of chase with your cat. Being overly animated with your excitement when you arrive home is great, too.

This will be an adjustment period for everyone. Remember it will take time to find a new normal again. Be patient and kind and remain positive-we will all get through this as best we can.