Back to School - Change of Routine

Monday, January 23, 2017  | The Pet Whisperer

Hi Coasties.

We are getting stuck into 2017 very soon - with holidays drawing to an end.

For many of us, this means a change in routine - a shift in "normality", and these changes may affect the fur-family member.

For some of us, we will have all children (finally) attending school. Perhaps you might have children on a gap year, or a change in schedule as university commitments unfold. Or it could be that you are the proud parents of someone new which is existing in a world of holiday times/schedules, and that new fur-baby needs to adjust as holidays end. It might even be that 2017 is the year you return to work, and are leaving the home base more regularly.

These adjustments are for us, a part of life. We accept them and move on, making processed evaluation of the impacts. It is quite different for our fur-family member. They were, very recently, a big part of the attention, saw more of you, experienced a different clock, and became accustomed to that "norm".

They will also need time to process the change. Some process change better than others. Canines are pack animals with social dependence and routine patterns. Felines are largely personality based with regards to change processes. Some cope better than others. 

What might those effects be?

1) Companionship Adjustments.   It is understandable that during this time of year, we spend more time at home, around the home, or ducking in and out of the home as we fulfil social obligations. Our pets get accustomed to this way.

When that changes, a simple solution could be to refocus the companionship status with a companion toy, treat puzzles, ensuring they have a comfy bed and safe play area, and for some ... perhaps the extreme of a new companionship partner may need to be evaluated. Furthermore, there are nowadays; kindy style centres for canines.

2) Routine pattern shifts.   Touched on above in (1) is that timing of coming and going may be altered. These patterns impact on routine pets. It is important to adopt new patterns of timing and action associated with movements quickly and with respect to those that cannot understand the necessity for the change. Start bringing in those changes asap. You can use the remainder of your holiday to prepare the household for future routines.

3) Setting up for Separation Anxiety.   In both points (1) and (2) there is a real risk of building stresses and anxiety as a direct result of your actions and behaviour. These can have lasting effects and you need to actively practice lowering stress levels on a daily basis.

A stressed pet is not a calm, happy pet. Separation Anxiety stress is usually a result of the creation of your absence and arrival being an "event". You build it up to be a big thing for your fur-baby. Ultimately your absence should be a good thing for your pet. It is a instinct program within to accept that their provider needs to head out and will return some time later. To make your leaving a good experience, you can always try giving a special treat as you head out, or perhaps a special toy. When you arrive home, it is vitally important to NOT greet your fur-baby. Do not make a fuss of them. Do not get them excited. Simply guide them out for toilet time, and then carry on settling back into the home. Do not pay them attention for 5-10 mins (usually enough time for them to settle).

If you work on this, they won't mind as much that you have gone and they won't be counting the seconds getting stressed or anxious about your absence.

4) Boredom.   Being alone can be boring. Even being with some friends can be boring. Break the boredom with some game play, foraging, investigation, food puzzles, etc etc. Use your imagination to stop them from getting bored - and keep safety paramount.

This will consume time, exercise the brain, and reward them for self play. There are so many items to choose from too. We have quite a few options in store.

5) Restriction of Movements.   When left in a confined space - which could be a play pen, a room, a house, or even a backyard, it can lead to stresses from being confined. These can be reduced by looking at ways of giving vision of a larger space - for a feline, this could be a window hammock, a platform scratcher at a window,; for a canine, it could be a platform lookout, or activity - see point (4) above. Make sure you have solutions handy for waste management. Litter trays for felines, grass patch or pee pads for canines (or they could hold on depending on age and time).

And don't forget that the best exercise for them is getting them out of the house. You can always pop down to my Pet Cafe on Karalta Road, Erina, or you can go out for a stroll on our beautiful Coast.

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I hope the above serves are some guidance pointers to help the transition from "holiday" mode to "can't wait for the next holiday" mode.

We have a responsibility to our pets and keeping their routine is important; keeping their stress levels low will lead to happiness; keeping them happy is a more rewarding life.

My main emphasis in this topic is to point out that You can change the stress levels, anxiety, and mood of your pet.  You  will be mostly responsible for the creation of separation anxiety - with the right advice, you can avoid complications.

We are here to help with real Solutions and Essentials for the benefit of your family.


The Pet Whisperer.