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Separation Anxiety in Pets

Nicolò Lazzati Photography [Flickr]

Separation anxiety can happen in a pet when the animal is strongly bonded to its owner and is not accustomed to spending any time alone.  It can be (or become) a serious condition and needs special attention from you to find a way to keep your pet calm in your absence.  It is one of the major reasons a new pet owner gets frustrated with their new furry friend.  Don't give up - you can fix this!


During the pandemic, record numbers of dogs and cats have been adopted from shelters and rescue groups. And folks who already had pets enjoyed the extra quality time with their four-footed buddies. Even though they were isolated from other humans, pet owners appreciated the companionship of their furry friends, and the pets have enjoyed being at home with their humans.

Now, with COVID restrictions being eased, and people looking forward to returning to their normal routines, there could be downside for pets. Some experts are warning us to be prepared to deal with separation anxiety in our pets.

Both dogs and cats form emotional attachments to their people. So when a pet is separated from its human for an extended period, due to job schedule or vacation or even illness, the animal may become anxious – hence, the term “separation anxiety”. For an animal, it is almost like having a panic attack. Your pet may misbehave, become destructive, or just not act in its normal friendly way. And if not addressedearly on, it can become a major problem.

It might help your petto become accustomed to you being gone if you can leave it home alone for short periods at first, and gradually lengthen the separation time.

If you are already noticing unacceptable behavior in your pet when it is left alone, talk to your veterinarian, who may be able to run some tests to make sure your pet’s problem isn’t a physical issue. Check online for some suggestions about dealing with separation anxiety, or find a professional pet trainer in your area who may be able to help.

Experts suggest that animals adopted from shelters may be more likely to suffer separation anxiety. They felt abandoned once when they found themselves homeless, in a cage, and they may be afraid it will happen again. An animal’s attachment to its human is, after all, why we call them our best friends, when we’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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