The ONLY national non-profit organization for professional pet sitters.

Back to School

As kids across the country prepare, and dread, to go back to school, empty nest syndrome can set in for families who have gotten used to the summer hustle and bustle. What families may not realize is that empty nest syndrome may also affect pets.

If a pet's favorite person in the house happens to be going back to school or leaving for college, this can greatly affect a pet and leave a void in the pet's lifestyle. Cats don't show their emotions as much as dogs do, but that doesn't mean that they don't get as anxious as their canine friends. Both species may show a loss of appetite or lose it entirely. Cats may also show their stress by excessive grooming, sleeping more and not coming to greet people at the door. Dogs may resort to whining, barking, pacing and chewing, or other behaviors such as getting into garbage cans.

There are ways to help a pet who is having a hard time adjusting to a quieter home during the day. A daily routine will not only help a pet to cope, but will teach a child the responsibilities of being a caring pet parent. For example, a walk in the morning and some attention, and then time set aside to play and snuggle in the afternoon when kids come home will assure the pet that even if the day gets busier, they won't be forgotten. Having an emotional departure or greeting may have the opposite effect of making a pet feel better but instead make them nervous and confused. By saying a quick goodbye or hello, a pet will associate it as normal, instead of a reason to be nervous. Background noise such as a radio or TV will give a pet something to listen to instead of silence. Likewise, keeping toys out for pets to play with will give them something to do, like Kong’s with peanut butter or other kinds of smart toys. If a family has a little bit of room in the budget, think about hiring a trusted NAPPS member, who can show a pet love and care and break up the monotony of the day with a brisk walk or playtime.

So far, there have been no studies on drugs to specifically help pets with separation anxiety. There are, however, two prescriptions available that are FDA approved, called Reconcile and Clomicalm. If a pet's separation anxiety is to the point that a vet believes medication is the only answer, it needs to be started gradually, a month before the change in schedule so the medicine has a chance to work and the pet has a chance to transition.

With a family working together, they can make the transition for their pet as smooth as possible, and make them feel that they are as loved, if not more, than before.