Even the happiest life changing-events bring new stress, not only to our own lives, but also to the lives of our pet companions. When home or family settings suddenly shift, consider their pet-spective. Our pets experience a change without any understanding of the situation, which can cause fear and anxieties to emerge. Here are 5 life-altering moments that most pets will experience, and some ideas to help them adjust.
Family Vacation – Whether they stay at a kennel or a family member’s home during vacation, this separation period is hard on a pet. Consider the comfort of your furry friend – choose a place that will keep them occupied and active to lessen the strain while you’re away. Take their blanket or bed with them so they will have something familiar in the strange place. Another thing they’re familiar with, and will surely appreciate, is their favorite treat so bring a bag of treats along too.
Moving – Adjusting to a new home is difficult and like you, the family pet is sacrificing their territory as well as familiar places. To help them deal with the turbulence, keep their old schedules consistent, make sure their bed and their favorite toys and treats are close at hand, and have extra patience while they adapt. Store their favorite treat in a location as similar as possible to the place they were used to in the old home and try to find a feeding area that will seem familiar too. It’s not the right time to get new food and water bowls.
Retirement – A pet parent’s retirement is often a welcome change, but having company at home every day is still a major transition in a pet’s life. To help the adjustment go smoothly, modify their schedule slowly. Give them some time alone each day and keep your regular feeding, walking, play and cuddling times consistent. It will probably help you adjust easier too!
Growing Family – Inviting a new family member into the home when getting married or having a baby can be exciting for the family pet, but it may also limit the time you have to spend with her. Your pet is used to being the center of attention. Prepare your pet by gradually reducing the amount of time you spend with him before the big event. Try to set aside one-on-one time for your furry friend, and if daily time together must decrease, try doing so gradually to avoid a shock. If you have a dog and there’s a baby involved, consider a dog walker the first few months until you have more time. If your pet still exhibits “sibling rivalry,” seek the advice of a dog trainer.
Family Member Leaving – Whether there’s a divorce in the home or children are heading off to college, our pets feel the deep loss when a beloved family member moves out. In fact, this is considered the leading cause of pet separation anxiety. Today many split families are arranging visits for the family pet, or even sharing custody. If not, extra attention and establishing a new routine is in order. If the person that always feeds and plays with them is going to be absent, assign a new “primary” caretaker who will follow the same daily schedule with the pet. Encourage all family members to spend more time with the pet. Plan some extra activities with your pet and consider a few treat rewards and lots of petting on stressful days.
To help curb their worries when family members have to be away from home, try leaving something fun for your pet to play with - like a puzzle toy stuffed with the dog’s favorite treat or a cat toy sprayed with a little catnip. This will keep him/her busy and associate alone time with something special.
Remember that pets are affected by their owner’s emotions. If a caregiver doesn’t deal well with the stress of home and work adjustments, their pet companion may not either. Considering your four-legged family member’s feelings during major changes can make the difference between a smooth transition and dealing with problematic behaviors for years to come.
The great thing about having a pet during stressful times is they always find some way to make us laugh. We can talk to them about anything that’s worrying us or making us unhappy but they never tell anyone our secrets. They usually love to cuddle and be hugged. Taking the time and effort to plan ahead when something new and different is coming up will make you both happier in the future.