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Back to School: 5 Tips for Helping Pets Cope

It’s back-to-school time, and while you and your kids may (or may not) be looking forward to a new fall routine, your pet has no idea what’s coming or why her schedule suddenly changed. Summers usually mean lazy days, a lot more home time, and fun activities, and Fido and Fluffy have become accustomed to having you around. When the family suddenly disappears for hours on end, it can cause your pet to experience stress and bewilderment. Here are some tips to help your dog or cat cope with your kids’ return to school.n1. Practice the New Routine Many pets thrive on routine, and making sure your dog or cat can anticipate what’s on the schedule throughout the day can go a long way toward relieving stress. A couple of weeks before school begins, sit down with your family and discuss your new schedule. Be sure to talk about how your pet fits into the new routine. Then start practising. Each day, get up at the appointed time (an added benefit is that by the time school actually starts, you will be prepared and ready to go!). Feed your pet at the same time each day. Take Fido on a walk each morning or evening, and incorporate some playtime with Fluffy. If your dog will be attending doggy daycare, drop him off for an hour or so to get him used to it.n2. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise A dog or cat with pent-up energy that’s left home alone all day may very well become destructive. A tired pet is a happy pet, and the way to accomplish that is exercise! Before you leave in the morning, play a rousing game of fetch with your pup or take her jogging with you. Cats often enjoy a round of playtime with a feather toy or a laser light. 3. Stay Calm For many children, it’s upsetting to leave a pet behind as they get in the car or board the bus to head back to school. This can be especially true if your pet just joined your family over the summer. Talk to your kids about the importance of remaining calm as they leave for the day; after all, your furry friend will take its cue from you. If you or your kids are anxious or upset, Fido is likely to feel the same. But if you are relaxed and matter-of-fact, Fluffy is more likely to calmly accept the change in routine.n4. Distractions Can Work Wonders No doubt you’d be bored if left home alone all day with nothing to do, and it’s likely your dog or cat feels the same. Instead of heading out the door with nothing more than a pat on the head, consider investing in some activities for your pet. There are a variety of interactive puzzles for dogs on the market, and a frozen peanut-butter-filled Kong can keep her busy for quite a while after you leave. Your kitty may benefit from a sprinkle of catnip on some fun toys, and many cats enjoy hunting for tasty treats hidden throughout the house.nIf you are gone most of each school day, you may want to consider doggy daycare for Fido. Even if he attends just one or two days a week, it gives him a chance to socialize and play. Another option is a dog walker who stops by to take him on a long walk during the afternoons.nAlso, consider leaving music on for your pet. Summer days are usually filled with activity and noise, and sudden quiet can leave your furry friend feeling anxious. Turning on some music or talk radio while you are gone can make your kitty or pup feel not so alone.n5. Quality Time Your pet is likely used to having you around a lot more now that summer is coming to a close, and your family being gone is going to be quite an adjustment. Help her by spending quality time with her, and make it a part of your daily routine. Go for a long walk in the morning, brush her for 15 minutes in the evening—whatever activity you and your pet enjoy doing together, set aside some time each day for it.nThe adjustment to going back to school is a big one for everyone involved. However, considering your pet’s needs before the day arrives can go a long way toward making the transition easier.nArticle by Abby Marshall