How Back-to-School Can Affect Your Pets

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio

Ah, back-to-school season. Students are getting ready to head back to the classroom or the dorm room, and parents are preparing for some changes in their schedule as they make sure all of their kids have what they need to succeed. But have you thought about your pets? After spending more time with the people they love during the summer, they can also feel the effects of the changes that come this time of year.

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What are the effects of back-to-school on pets? Below are a few of the ways that dogs and cats can be impacted, along with tips on how to make them feel better. 

Being Home Alone Might Lead to Stress, Depression, Boredom, or Anxiety 

Whether it’s from a big change in their routine or the result of being home alone for longer than they’re used to, some pets might become depressed, anxious, or bored while everyone is at school and work. And it can be especially distressing if your pet is attached to someone who’s going off to college and won’t be home for weeks or months at a time.   

If you’re able to  keep an eye on your pet when you aren’t home with a security camera or pet camera, you might see signs that your companion is stressed or unhappy. For example, they might vocalize, pace and look for you, hide, avoid eating, or exhibit destructive behaviors like house soiling or scratching and chewing on your things.  

Both  dogs and cats can experience separation anxiety, and it might become a problem during this time of year. Whether you already know that your pet suffers from separation anxiety, perhaps because of a difficult past, or you’re just recognizing this problem now, the good news is there are  things you can do to help your pet adjust and feel comfortable with being home alone.    

School Supplies and Lunches Might Be Toxic to Pets 

Another thing to consider is that some school supplies, and even some of the foods you pack for your kids’ lunch, can be toxic to pets. So, it’s important to keep those out of reach of your furry friend. 

Make sure everyone in the family knows about these risks, and create a routine that will ensure products and foods aren’t easy for your pet to access. A clever dog might be able to figure out how to get into a lunchbox or backpack, so have a space in your home where these can be kept off the floor and away from your companion while your kids are home from school. 

How to Help Your Pet Move Through Back-to-School Season with Ease

Here are some tips to help make back-to-school season easier on your pet:

Use Environmental Enrichment to Prevent Boredom

To help keep your pet occupied while you aren’t home,  enrich their environment. There are plenty of simple ways to go about doing so. For instance, some dogs and cats might feel calmer when soft music is playing at a low volume or when they’re able to watch cute videos made for pets, or you can set up a bird feeder in your backyard so your kitty can watch birds and squirrels while lounging on a  cat tree. And you can leave toys, puzzle feeders, and snuffle mats out for your pet to enjoy (just be sure they’re safe for your companion to use while you aren’t there to supervise). 

A great example is the  OurPets Sushi Treat Puzzle Toy, which both dogs and cats can use throughout the day to get tasty treats. It’s a good way to provide your pet with mental stimulation while you aren’t home, as they need to figure out how to open the compartments to find the food inside. Plus, it’s designed to be easy to clean. 

Change Your Routine Before School Starts

Rather than shocking your pet with a sudden change in their routine, consider gradually shifting your schedule as the new school year approaches. You might go out with your kids for a bit in the morning so your pet gets used to everyone leaving at that time of day. As your pet adjusts, you can increase the amount of time you spend away from home so that, by the time school starts, they’ll be used to being home alone for hours at a time. Plus, taking this step may even be helpful for you and your kids, as adjusting to waking up earlier and heading out the door on time can be tough for everyone.  

Have Someone Spend Time with Your Pet During the Day

Whether it’s a family member, friend, or pet sitter, having someone visit your pet during the school day might help them feel less lonely and less stressed. Have someone you trust play with your cat or take your dog for a walk. Your companion will get some interaction and exercise, and might end up relaxing for a nap until your family gets home.  

Show Your Pet Loads of Love When You’re Home

Although mornings can certainly be hectic, if you can spend some time with your pet before you leave, such as by going for a walk with your dog or  playing with your cat, do so. And, when everyone gets home for the day, definitely make sure your pet gets the attention they crave so they don’t feel left out.  

Get Another Pet

If you have only one cat or one dog, and you think that they would benefit from the company of another pet, there are many animals waiting for homes in shelters all over the country. Just be sure to follow the right steps for introducing a new  cat or  dog to your family so it can go as smoothly as possible.  

Back-to-School Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful

With the right plan in place, you can ease everyone in your family, including your pets, into a new routine when it’s time to go back to school. But if you’ve tried various tactics and nothing seems to work at putting your pet at ease, consider talking to your veterinarian or a dog or cat behaviorist. They can provide personalized tips based on your individual pet’s needs, and they can recommend products that may help reduce stress and anxiety.  

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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