Battling Back-to-School Blues in Pets

5 Steps to Keep Your Pet Happy When You Return to Your Busy Schedule

The start of the school year can be just as difficult on your pets as it is on your human family members. Any sorts of big routine changes like that can trigger separation anxiety.

09-05 Back to School Blues_cat

Pets can become anxious or bored when left alone all day and may express that in different ways. In a recent survey, Pet360 discovered that 20 percent of pet owners with school-age children said their pets showed signs of anxiety or depression when everyone in the house went back to their normal routine at the end of the summer.

Here are 5 things you can do keep your pet happy:

09-05 Back to School Blues1. Keep regular feeding times

For most pets feeding time is an important and exciting part of their day, so it’s key to keep breakfast and dinner at the same time every day. At our shelters we keep all of the animals on a structured feeding schedule. For dogs each meal time is followed by dog playgroup or a long walk. “We always recommend to our adopters that you do a consistent morning and afternoon feeding time” says Carolyn Curran, Assistant Manager of the Boston shelter. Animals often nap after they eat, so your pet may snooze away much of his time alone after a meal and some play time.

2. Exercise

Walking your dog and setting aside at least 15 minutes to play with your cat or other pet are essential to burning off extra energy. When you get home from work, get in the pattern of going to your local dog park, so that he can socialize. If you’re a runner, take your dog with you on your runs. “Start your dog out slowly. If you gradually increase the miles, your dog will become more fit and their pads will toughen up and make him or her less susceptible to injury” says ARL‘s Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM. “Three times per week, 15 to 20 minutes at a moderate pace is a good place to start.  If your pet is a couch potato, start with walks.” Your pet will most likely be happier (and healthier) if he is getting the proper amount of exercise.

3. Learn new tricks

Pick a new trick to teach your pet and have the whole family work together on training him. This doesn’t only apply to dogs, cats, ferrets and other animals can also be trained. Check-out this guide on how to train your cat to sit! If your dog is athletic, consider enrolling in an obedience or agility class. We offer several classes here at the ARL. Your pet will enjoy the stimulation of learning something new.

4. Schedule a visit to the vet

Just like people, animals need vet checkups too. Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, DVM says “a checkup with your veterinarian can help you determine how healthy your pet is…. even healthy looking pets can have hidden problems.” Take your pets to the vet once a year to make sure that they’re healthy.

5. Prevent your pet from getting bored

Engage your pet while you’re gone, by leaving food puzzles for them (even rabbits and other small animals enjoy food puzzles). There are a variety of food puzzles and toys to choose from. If you’re a crafty cat lover, you can create a food puzzle for your cat by using this guide. It’s a fun activity for the whole family. For an easy to make dog puzzle, fill an empty marrow bone with some peanut butter and throw it in freezer. Leave the frozen treat for your dog when you leave the house.

Feline Focus: Three Ways to Recycle for Your Cat

Let’s face it: pet products can get expensive. But we sometimes forget that keeping our pets healthy and entertained doesn’t have to put a burden on your wallet. So in honor of keeping things green, here are three easy ways to recycle with your feline in mind:

blog_egg carton1. Food Puzzle Egg Carton

Yes, it’s really that easy. Just take some of your cat’s favorite dry food and sprinkle it into an empty egg carton. It immediately becomes a food puzzle as your cat figures out how to get the food!

Food puzzles are a great way to stimulate your cat’s problem-solving skills while giving it an active way to obtain dinner. Food puzzles are a great way to have your cat burn a few extra calories while slowing down food intake to prevent vomiting.

blog_castle2. Cardboard Castle

Sure, your cat will most likely hop into a cardboard box without any alterations. But why not turn it into a more sophisticated kitty playground? By taping it closed and cutting out a couple doors and windows, it will add fun to playtime as your cat tries to grab at toys through the holes. Put a couple boxes together and you could have your very own cat jungle gym!

And when your cat is no longer interested or you need to clear out some space, it’s easy to recycle and make a new one.blog_scratcher

3. Home-made Scratching Post

Have a lot of leftover cardboard from the holidays? While this project takes a bit of time (several hours for the larger sized scratcher), it costs hardly anything to make and will last! Take a box such as an empty can tray (pictured) or go smaller with an empty tissue box. Carefully cut strips of cardboard (from discarded packaging or clean recycling) and glue them together with any type of non-toxic glue. Then add a dash of catnip and your cat will be happily scratching where its supposed to!

See below for more stories from our Feline Focus series: