Back to School: How to Address Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Cats

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One of the best parts of having a pet, if not the best part, is their unconditional love for you. You can always rely on your pet no matter what happens during your day. Your dog or cat will usually be excited to greet you when you come home, snuggle up at times, or seek attention for playtime. But can there be too much time with your pet? When pets are not used to being alone, often from constant association with you or your family, they’re more likely to experience separation anxiety when you’re gone.

Golden doodle waiting for its owners as it looks out the window

Starting a new routine, such as going back to school, can often trigger unusual behavior. If your furry companion has been acting out of character, destroying furniture, crying or house-soiling, they may have separation anxiety. The good news is it can be managed! Keep reading to discover the symptoms, possible causes, and how to tackle this common issue in dogs and cats.

What Is Separation Anxiety?

sad tabby cat on its side looking out the window

Separation anxiety happens when your dog or cat is overly attached to you or a family member, and they become stressed, show abnormal behaviors, or “act out” when someone is getting ready to leave the house or while their human is gone. Depending on the dog or cat, it can manifest in various ways. But here are a few telltale signs your dog or cat may be experiencing it.

Dog Separation Anxiety Symptoms

Cat Separation Anxiety Symptoms

What Causes Separation Anxiety?

Young boy hugging his dog outside

Can Separation Anxiety Be Managed?

Generally, yes. It can be simple to address for some animals. For instance, hiring a dog walker so your dog isn’t home alone for as long. In other cases, it may require training, a consistent routine, a new lifestyle, or long-term medication to decrease anxiety.

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Cats

young girl smiling at her dog while they lay next to each other


Addressing any behavior issues can help curb any feelings of anxiety in pets. But it does require a bit of time. If training sounds overwhelming, especially with the chaos of returning to school, you can get support from 24Petwatch’s Lifetime Protection Membership Plus. They offer customized pet training with simple, easy-to-follow lessons complimentary for one year!

Doggy Daycare, Dog Walkers, and Pet Sitters

Bringing them to a daycare a few times a week and hiring a dog walker or a sitter may help ease their anxiety because they get attention throughout the day. To help with these costs, the Lifetime Protection Membership Plus also comes with a $30 discount to Rover, a pet-sitting and walking service.

Ease into New Routines

If a new routine is approaching, such as household members going back to school, you can help your pet adjust by easing into it. A week or two before going back to school, you can start leaving the house for short periods, gradually increasing the time you’re away every day until it’s the same amount of time they’ll be left alone when school starts. For example, the first day leave for an hour, the second day two hours and so on until it’s 8 hours.

Teach Alone Time

You can also help your furry family member feel more comfortable being alone while you’re still at home by distancing yourself from them with a gate, pen, crate, or room.

Enrichment Toys

Make sure they are engaged or occupied when you’re away. Puzzle games, slow feeders, chew toys, and Kongs are great enrichment toys that can help ease their stress and keep them entertained while you’re gone.

White Noise

Leaving the radio or music on low can help reduce their anxiety because it imitates having someone around. It can also help muffle outside noises that could trigger excessive barking, crying, or meowing.

Leave Clothes that Smell like You

When you’re not physically there, your scent will still be. Leaving clothes, a blanket, or a towel you’ve used will help comfort them whenever you aren’t around.

Create a New Routine

If your pet has to adjust to a new routine when the residence is empty during the day, scheduling quality time together before and after school or work will help ease your pet’s feelings about you leaving because they’re still getting attention, just at a different time. Try having your kids schedule playtime and walks before and after school.


A tired animal with enough physical activity will be more likely to settle down while you’re gone.

Come and Go Calmly

Too much excitement causes stress for your pet. High-pitched voices and too much time saying hello and goodbye can stimulate them. If your dog is vocal, shakes, or paces, they may be too excited. Meanwhile, your cat may twitch, flatten their ears, bite, or growl. Making a big production will make them think your arrivals and departures are huge, critical events, which could create a habit of getting overly excited when someone leaves or comes home. When they’re too stimulated, it takes longer for them to calm down, which can manifest into destructive behavior, vocalization, house-soiling, and other symptoms of separation anxiety.

Cat or Dog Separation Anxiety Medication

If nothing seems to work for your pet, talk to your vet about trying an anti-anxiety medication or natural supplement that can settle them when left alone.

Just like giving treats and snuggles, training, creating consistent routines, and helping them adjust to new lifestyles is a way to show your love for your pet because you’re letting them be just a dog or cat without the anxiety!

For more information about enhanced Pet Protection Services, contact a 24Petwatch Lost Pet Recovery Specialist today at 1-866-597-2424.

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