RESEARCH has shown that it is not just children who have the ‘back to school’ blues – it is also an emotion experienced by the family pets.
As youngsters go back to school it seems cats, dogs and other animals are just as disappointed after spending six years with arguably their best friends.
Experts in pet care say when pupils return to full time education, cats and dogs are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety, which can result in a change in their animals’ behaviour at the end of summer holidays.
A study by Pets at Home Bromsgrove* revealed that more than four in ten children admitted to having more fun with their pet than they do with their friends or siblings with more than half of children surveyed spending more than an hour interacting with their furry friend each day.
The results also discovered that a third of children are unhappy when spending time away from their pet and one in ten were noticeably upset whilst apart from them.
Carolyn Mentheith, an expert in dog training and behaviour, said: “The main problem with the end of the holidays is that very often the dog will have had 24/7 company as the family are all at home – and then suddenly everyone vanishes and the dog is left home alone.
“This is especially a problem for people who choose to get puppies during the holidays and at a time when they have time to devote to their new arrival.
“The puppy comes straight from the constant company of their mum and littermates into the home, thinks that their new life will consist of having humans around them all the time – and they never learn the coping strategies needed to cope with being on their own for the very first time in their life.
Head of pets at Pets at Home Dr Maeve Moorcroft said: “After being surrounded by family for a few weeks, pets get used to the fun and attention children bring them, but a suddenly empty home can affect them.
“Even well-behaved pets start exhibiting strange or unruly behaviour when this happens, but there are actions you can take to minimise this.”
Alan Philip, store manager at Pets at Home Bromsgrove, has put together five top tips for reducing the amount of anxiety returning to school causes.
1. Keep all arrivals and departures low-key. For example, when you arrive home, ignore your pet for the first few minutes, then calmly stroke them. This may be hard for you to do, but it’s important
2. Lessen the feeling of loss by leaving behind an item of clothing in their bed, as having your scent around will help your pet relax
3. Leave the TV or radio on to reassure the pet that someone is at home
4. Where possible, try to play with your cat or walk your dog before you leave so they will be more inclined to sleep while you are away
5. Don’t punish bad behaviour such as chewing the furniture, make sure they have enough toys around to keep them entertained. For pets that do show signs of being stressed, try using calming products like Feliway for cats, Adaptil for dogs or pet remedy for all pets, including small animals.
And it is hoped after a few days or weeks the pets’ behaviour will return to normal.
Visit www.petsathome.com for more information.