Helping Pandemic Pets Adjust to Changing Routines

LAST UPDATED 22 October 2020

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever BVSc (Hons)

2020 has seen a huge increase in the number of people adopting and purchasing new pets, which is not suprising given the emotional support pets can provide during periods of isolation. According to a survey conducted by Pawshake, 97% of pet parents said that their pet had helped them through tough times.

With record numbers of pet parents adding to their fur families and many spending more time at home with their pets than previous years, it is unsurprising that pets may have difficulty adjusting when we start to leave the house once more. This can result in stress, anxiety and behavioural problems in our pets.

Skip to...

How has pet ownership changed in 2020?

How to help your pet adjust to a changing routine

The experts at SEMrush tell us that online searches for "Dogs for Adoption" in Australia have seen a dramatic increase since the beginning of this year and searches for "Kittens for Adoption" also more than doubled in April. Worryingly though, this year has also seen an increase in searches for pet rehoming advice drastically increasing from April to July, coinciding with the lifting of restrictions in many states and perhaps indicating that pet parents were struggling to fit their lockdown pets into their changing routine.

How has pet ownership changed in 2020?

We're closer to our pets than ever

37% of pet parents surveyed by Pawshake confirmed that 2020 has changed their relationship with their pet, and 67% said they felt closer to their pet.

Pets are used to having us at home

Of the pet parents surveyed above, 46% also said that their pet is more attached to them and frets when they're left home alone, indicating that separation anxiety is a problem many pet parents may be struggling with.

Signs of separation anxiety in dogs

- Following owner closely
- Barking, whining, and vocalising
- Drooling or sweating
- Aggression may be observed in some cases
- Howling and crying
- Not eating
- Urinating or defecating inside
- Destroying furniture or objects
- Trying to escape by chewing on or scratching doors and windows

According to the RSPCA, behavioural issues, such as those triggered by separation anxiety were the third most common reason for pets being surrendered to their shelters in 2018. If there is an increase in pets suffering separation anxiety as people spend more time out of the house, many vets and animal rescue workers fear it may result in an increase of pets being surrendered or rehomed.

How to help your pet adjust to your changing routine

If it's looking like your regular routine is going to change soon, perhaps with you returning to working or studying out of the home, there are steps you can take to help your fur family members adjust.

1. Transition slowly

Give your pet plenty of time to adjust by slowly transitioning into your new daily routine. This may involve a regular walk in the morning and leaving the house for just a short time each day. By setting up regular times for exercise, play and feeding, your pet will begin to learn what to expect from each day.

2. Lower anxiety levels

Taking steps to lower your pet's overall anxiety levels can help them to adjust to changes more smoothly. Aids to reduce anxiety tend to take a few weeks to reach a full effect, so ideally introduce these 3 to 4 weeks before you begin to make any changes. This could include using a Feliway Diffuser or Adaptil Collar, as well as anxiety reducing foods or supplements.

Top pet anxiety solutions

3. Keep your pet occupied

Distract your pet from boredom or anxiety using interactive toys, treat dispensers and environmental enrichment, such as a digging sand pit or hidden treats around the house or yard. For cats, providing additional vertical space and opportunities to watch the world go by through a window are ideal. You could even invest in a Pet Cam to spy on and interact with your pet remotely!

Top occupier toys for dogs

Top environmental enrichment for cats

With a little forward planning, you can help your fur family members adjust to you spending more time away from them again. After the amount 'sup-paw-t' they have given us this year it only seems fair that we should give a little back.

Further reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Managing separation anxiety in dogs

How to reduce anxiety in cats

The health benefits of pet ownership

The benefits of pets in the office

Daily habits for pet health

Shop All Dog & Cat Supplies Now