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Is the thought of leaving your furry friend at home post-lockdown bringing you down? You're not alone – pet separation anxiety is on the rise



After the boom in the number of families welcoming a pet in to their homes during lockdown, there has been a lot of worry about how these animals will feel when life returns to normal. If all they’ve ever known is a constant company and permanent attention, pets can experience severe separation anxiety when, all of a sudden, their beloved owners seemingly abandon them for most of the day.

While any responsible pet owner will have made provisions to safeguard against this by gradually getting their pet used to being alone for short periods of time as well as finding adequate care for them during the day, many fail to anticipate how separation will make them feel.

“I got my kitten Gary when he was just eight weeks old as soon as I moved into my own place during the pandemic,” says Chloe Laws, GLAMOUR Social Media Director. “Ever since then, we have been joined at the hip – he misses me so much when I’m in the bath or shower than he often jumps in to be with me. When he was little, he never left my side and he was always perched on my shoulders like a parrot.”

Chloe admits that going back to the office and resuming normal outside life is anxiety inducing not only because Gary has got so used to constant attention but because she is placing some of her anxieties about going back onto him. “It’s going to be an adjustment. Recently, I went to Norfolk for a week and my friend was cat-sitting for me. Gary was fine but I needed constant FaceTimes and reassurance!”

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Having spent the entire time in lockdown with my two dogs, I can relate to how Chloe feels. When I go out, I can’t wait to get back home to them. And I’m not the only ones – according to a survey from Mars Petcare, nearly two in three pet owners say they’re likely to travel again in 2021 and about 60% want to bring their pets along. The desire to be with their pets is so strong that 85% of dog owners in the UK stated they would rather opt for domestic holidays than go abroad and leave their pooch back home.

It’s indicative of a wider sense of insecurity caused by the events of the past 18 months. Many of us are feeling apprehensive about reentering the outside world having spent so long in lockdown and cases of health anxiety, agoraphobia and social anxiety are at an all time high.

“Groups of people have formed close bubbles with each other for many months now and some are finding that they’re still more comfortable restricting themselves to socialising with only those in their original bubble,” notes Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist, Private Therapy Clinic. “The reason behind this is familiarity. The uncertainty of mixing with people and visiting places we are less familiar with raises levels of anxiety, potentially making us uncomfortable.”

According to Dr Spelman, the only way to combat these feelings is with gentle and gradual exposure. In the case of feeling anxious when away from your pet, start by spending time apart while at home and work your way up to spending time out and about. It’s as important for you as it is for them.

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Not sure how to care for your pet? Dr Tammie King, Pet Behaviourist at Mars Petcare shares six tips for getting through this transitional phase…

  1. Create a safe space for them: Use a crate or secure room to create a fun place with a bed, toys, and water and take your pet there regularly to teach them it is a good place to be. Feeding meals in this area helps build positive associations.
  2. Leave and arrive quietly: When leaving and homecoming rituals involve minimal fuss, it helps your dog to understand that your absence isn’t anything to worry about.
  3. Develop a consistent, predictable routine: If you’re in lockdown or working from home more than usual, it’s tempting to enjoy lots of time with your pet. But establishing a routine that more closely resembles pre-lockdown life is more beneficial for your dog.
  4. Make sure they stay active: Before your pet has some time alone, make sure they’ve had enough exercise – if they’re tired, they’re more likely to have a nap while you’re away.
  5. Leave your scent: Leave a blanket or piece of clothing carrying your scent with them, as this may help to comfort them.
  6. Leave the radio on: Leaving the radio on or play some music while you’re away can help to soothe your pet. It will make the house feel less quiet in your absence.



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