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Written By

Stephanie Schierhuber


College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences

Publish Date

3 August 2020

Related Study Areas

Treating paw mental health

Extra treats, extra walks and all-day attention — having us work from home has been purrrfect for our pets. Now that many of us are heading back to the office, how do we keep our furry friends from feeling the distance?

JCU Veterinary Emergency Centre and Hospital’s Dr Cat Neve, a fear-free certified vet, shares her top five tips for easing your pet’s anxiety as you return to the office.

Routine, routine, routine

Instilling a consistent daily routine can help your pet work out when they can expect to see you. Meal time is the most anticipated event of the day for your four-legged friend. Feeding your pet at the same time every day is a great way to provide them with some reassurance. Dr Cat also suggests scheduling consistent times for other important events like exercise and training.

Take time out

“Teach independence through the institution of quiet time during the day,” says Dr Cat. Make time during the day for your pet to have a short rest or engage in a quiet activity in a separate room from other family members. These short periods of independent time for your dog or cat help to get them used to spending time alone while you are out of the house.

Variety is the spice of life

The last thing you want is to come home at the end of a busy day to discover that Fido has shredded the lounge. Mental enrichment is an essential part of ensuring your pup or kitty doesn’t stress eat the furniture in your absence. Provide your pet with a variety of challenging and interesting toys and treats to keep anxiety destruction at bay. “Most activities do not have to be expensive,” says Dr Cat, “but be mindful that some do require supervision.” She recommends food balls and puzzles, snuffle mats, agility training, or even hiding treats in a taped up cardboard box or folded up pet blanket.

Reward a thing well done

Encourage your pet to embrace a more relaxed approach to life by rewarding calm behavior. On the flip side, Dr Cat recommends that people ignore attention-seeking, destructive behaviours. By rewarding your pet for chilling out, you’ll create a positive association with staying calm, which helps decrease anxiety.

A Jack Russell terrier on a walk with owner
A calico cat reaches up to snatch a treat from hand
A German Shepherd gives high fives to owner

Practice makes perfect

Build up to being away from your furry friend all day. Practice with shorter outings throughout the day to get your pet used to having the days to themselves again. To make alone time a positive experience, Dr Cat recommends giving your pet an activity before you head out the door; treat balls and other safe food-based toys are always a winner. “It’s also imperative to stay calm in the hour prior to leaving the house and when returning home,” Dr Cat says, as it will help keep your pet relaxed, too.

Do you have concerns about your pets’ anxiety and the return to work? Book an appointment with JCU Veterinary Emergency Centre and Hospital or your primary care veterinarian for a health and behaviour check.

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