A cat and a dog staring out of an open window.

Back to School Means Changes for Pets, Too!

With the kids at home more during the summer, your pets have likely basked in the extra attention, trips to the park, marathon games of tag and lengthy snuggles. But now, the air is cooling, the big yellow bus is back and, for your pets, the summer fun is giving way to long hours alone at home.

The back-to-school transition can be tough for your pets, too. Here are some helpful tips to help them adjust.

Maintain a routine.

Our pets love routine — it helps them feel secure. But back-to-school time can make it hard to stick to a consistent schedule, and changes are often unavoidable. To help your pets make the transition, try to maintain their routine — especially mealtimes and bathroom breaks — as much as you can.

Keep in mind, too, that sudden changes in schedules can be especially difficult for some pets. Ideally, you can help prepare your pets ahead of time by slowly reducing the amount of time spent with them and moving mealtimes. A gradual decrease in time spent together over one to two weeks will be less noticeable than an abrupt switch.

“Study hard, play hard,” applies to pets, too!

After a full school day for your kids and a day home alone for your pets, playtime (a.k.a. exercise) will help release pent-up energy and reduce stress for everyone. Daily activity is as important to healthy pets as it is healthy people, so consider building it into your family’s schedule. This will ensure your kids and pets continue to spend quality time together, and helps your kids learn to be caring, responsible pet owners. Dogs should get enough exercise for their breed, which typically amounts to an hour a day of outdoor activity such as chasing and running. Cats also benefit from 30 to 40 minutes of daily activity such as chasing a laser beam or wand-type toy.

Calmness counts: No-fuss comings and goings.

People coming and going from your home can be extremely emotional times for pets. Because dogs and cats can pick up on our moods, don’t make a big deal out of leaving or arriving home. Ignore your pets for 10 to 15 minutes prior to leaving home and calmly and matter-of-factly leave. When you first arrive at home, have your dog sit and wait calmly while you put things away. Acting as if departures and arrivals aren’t a big deal will help your pets think so, too.

Provide mental stimulation to reduce boredom.

With more time on their paws because their favorite playmates are back in school, your pets will need ways to entertain themselves. Interactive toys and food puzzles will help keep pets occupied, help stimulate their minds and even get them moving.

For your dog, you can also consider pet day care or a dog walker to ensure they receive plenty of attention during the day. Your cat may enjoy an occasional visit from a retired neighbor who doesn’t have pets of his or her own to add “activity” to your home.

No matter how hectic schedules can get during the start of a new school year, we can’t forget our furry, four-legged best friends. Be sure to plan evening and weekend activities that include them. An evening walk in the park, game of fetch in the backyard, weekend hike or picnic, or even a nightly brushing can give your pets the attention they want and deserve.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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