This time of year is hectic, exciting, and stressful as we finish up our summer fun and the kids head back to school. A different schedule and more extracurricular activities mean we’re home less and busier when we are home. While it’s an adjustment for kids and parents, don’t forget how it might affect other family members- your pets.

After an entire summer of extended family time, suddenly being home alone is bound to upset both dogs and cats, and can result in anxiety, depression, and behavior issues. Pets who have an especially strong bond with your child will likely have problems once their favorite person disappears for hours at a time. 

Your dog may develop separation anxiety, characterized by digging and scratching in an attempt to escape, excessive howling and whining, destructive chewing, a lapse in potty training, and a change in mood. In cats, separation anxiety can mean trembling, withdrawing, hiding, trying to escape, loss of appetite, change in mood, and an upset stomach resulting in diarrhea.

You can help your pets avoid separation anxiety by beginning with short absences and gradually lengthening the time away. It’s important to stay calm and not make a big deal about leaving. If you’re concerned about destructive behavior or house soiling, you might want to consider crate training. This is something that should be eased into gradually, giving your pet plenty of time to acclimate to the idea. Don’t ease up on rules and routines because you feel guilty for leaving them. This will only create more confusion.

Toys and treats can help distract your pet in your absence. Dog-treat toys or snuffle mats can be given as you leave the house to divert your dog’s focus from your departure. Put these toys away when you get home and only give them to him when you leave. Your cat may like a new window perch with a view of a bird feeder and hidden pieces of dry cat food around the house to keep her busy and satisfy her hunting instinct.

New and fun additions to their routine can help as well. If your dog is good in public, consider bringing her on a leash to soccer practice. If your cat is lonely, consider adding another cat to your home to help create companionship. Check with your neighbors and friends. Someone may be willing or even excited to take your dog for a walk during the day. If you can, stop by home during your lunch hour once or twice a week to give the pets an unexpected perk.

When you’re back home after work and school, be sure to give your pets a little extra attention to reassure them that they’re loved and valued. Your pets also need plenty of exercise, which will help them stay calm and relaxed during the day. 

Opal came to us as a pregnant young mother, and she gave birth to some adorable kittens. Her babies are weaned, and it’s time for Opal to find her family. She’s a young, healthy, beautiful girl who prefers to be the only cat. She loves attention from people.


Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Shops have served San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties since 1994. Adoption hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 5:30 pm. View our shelter pets and services online: