Pets are treasured family members, and while there are many documented cases for pets suffering from separation anxiety when their owners are absent, it is also possible for pet owners to have similar anxiety issues when away from their pets. Understanding that anxiety and learning how to successfully cope with it can help both pets and owners have a fulfilling relationship without the constant stress and worry that separation anxiety can bring.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
A pet's separation anxiety can be easily seen with destructive behavior, excessive whining, barking or howling, urination or defecation and other symptoms, but human separation anxiety from pets can be more subtle. Common symptoms that you might be unduly anxious when away from your pets include…
- Irrational fear about extraordinary circumstances that are unlikely to occur, such as the pet being kidnapped from a secure home, or improbably accidents causing injuries
- Regularly finding even the flimsiest of excuses to stay home with your pet, taking sick days for quality pet time or leaving work early to get home to your pet more quickly
- Avoiding social activities with family and friends that would require you to be away from your pet, or insisting that your pet come along even when it is inappropriate
- Difficulty maintaining attention or focus at work or on any activity when you are away from your pet, resulting in poor performances or disciplinary action
- Being obsessed with the prospect of having to leave your pet, dreading the moment when you have to depart and using any excuse to delay leaving
- Unexplained headaches, stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, high blood pressure or other physical manifestations of excessive anxiety or stress
Pet owners who experience one or more of these symptoms regularly should seek advice from a licensed therapist to determine the source of their overall anxiety and help them better manage their feelings to lead a happier, stress-free, anxiety-free life. This is especially crucial if the anxiety is stemming from other sources, such as fear of personal abandonment or traumatic events involving pets in the past that were never properly dealt with or understood.
Overcoming Your Separation Anxiety
Mild symptoms of separation anxiety from pets can be easily overcome with practice and thoughtfulness. To relieve your anxiety at being away from your beloved pet…
- Background Check Pet Care: If you leave your pet with a sitter, boarding facility or animal day care, thoroughly investigate the facility or individual through reviews, background checks and personal visits to learn how they operate and what their style of pet care may be. The more familiar you are with your pet's caregivers, the more at ease you will feel with leaving them in competent care.
- Keep Your Pet With You (Figuratively): While most workplaces are not pet-friendly, it is always possible to bring a part of your pet with you by adding a nice photo to your desk or keeping photos and short videos on your phone, tablet or computer. Whenever you are feeling anxious, you can check those photos or videos to feel closer to your pet, even if they may be far away.
- Provide a Safe Space: Take every reasonable step to provide a safe place for your pet when you cannot be with them. If your pet is at home without you, be sure your home is puppy-proofed or kitten-proofed, and remove any potential hazards from their reach. If you know there is nothing that can harm them in your absence, a lot of your anxiety may vanish.
- Go High Tech: Installing a pet-oriented version of a nanny cam is a great way to feel close to your pet when you can't be home. These cameras upload live video to the cloud, allowing you to instantly check on your pet and reassure yourself that they're okay. Several cameras can be positioned in different areas your pet can access, and you can always keep an eye on them.
- Stay Apart at Home: While it is tempting to spend every spare moment with your pet, you can help relieve some separation anxiety by establishing better boundaries at home. It is fine if your pet is not in the same room with you all the time, or if there are places in your home your pet is not allowed to be. As you become better accustomed to those short periods of separation, the longer periods away will not be as stressful.
- Treat Your Pet's Anxiety: If your pet shows signs of separation anxiety, knowing your friend is anxious can make you anxious as well. Consult with your veterinarian about ways to calm your pet's anxiety, and you'll feel better when you have to be apart, knowing they aren't pining for you every second.
Separation anxiety is a real concern for both pets and owners, but by learning what separation anxiety feels like when you are away from your pets and how to treat it successfully, you can enjoy a great, stress-free relationship with your pet.