Does your pet have separation anxiety that causes erratic behavior when you leave the house? When you pull out your suitcase, or even think about the cruise you are about to take, does your cat give you the hairy eyeball or pee on your shoes?
Separation anxiety is one of the most common issues my clients ask about when they come to me for behavioral help, especially if the animal has been rescued. I've learned a very basic fact from my animal communication sessions - behavioral retraining only goes so far. Until and unless you find out the root cause, you have only part of the story, and, at best, you have solved only part of the problem.
During the past decade as an animal communicator, I've discovered the limitations of my science training. Behavioral observation provides an incomplete perspective on what animals "understand" and think. The core issues underlying most pet behavior issues, once physical/medical conditions have been addressed, are most often related to anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. You have a routine for your work days and your days off, and your pets are forced to accept changes in the timing of your comings and goings without being consulted. If you love your pet, you want to ensure that your absence won't cause unnecessary anxiety. Here are a few simple ways to be more considerate to the animals who depend on you for their emotional well-being as well as their physical needs.
1) Find the cause of separation anxiety. A communicator can find out whether your pet has been abandoned or abused, and some of us also help with emotional release and calming techniques. For animals who have been abandoned, your sudden departure or prolonged absence can trigger the fear that you won't ever return. Most important, your own concerns escalate the animal's anxieties and fears. Addressing the resulting behaviors depends on your attitude and ability to stay calm, as well as understanding your pet's ability to compensate for past experiences.
2) Choose an experienced pet sitter or reputable boarding facility. Many animals prefer their own homes to the chaos and cages of most kennels. Cats are especially fearful of the strange noises and confinement, and many pets are truly offended if they are forced to urinate and defecate in a closed space or in proximity to their food and rest areas. If you hire a pet sitter, make sure to check in or assign someone else to verify that the person is actually at your home, and that you receive regular contact via emails, texts, or voice messages. If you must use a kennel, spend the extra money for a facility that allows a full inspection, is continually staffed, and offers live streaming video of the play areas.
3) Tell your pet what to expect. Most people have a sense of connection with their pets, and you can be confident that yours will understand you when you explain that you love them and are sorry you can't take them with you. Be specific about how many "sleeps" (nights) you will be away. When your routine changes, let them know and reassure them that you will always make sure they are safe and loved. In other words, treat them as the sentient beings they are, and consider the possibility that many of our assumptions about animals are inaccurate.
4) Enhance the environment. Many animals ask for a picture of the family, or a favorite person, to be placed near where they usually sleep. Some like a radio on at low volume, tuned to a familiar station. There are essential oils such as Lavender or Peace & Calming blend that can be used on bedding or diffused by a pet sitter to help with anxiety. Leaving a favorite piece of clothing with your scent on it also comforts the animal who misses you every minute you are away. Your pet will be bored and lonely unless there is someone present for more than a few minutes each day, so these little details are more important than you think.
5) Stay in touch. While you are away, create a heart-to-heart connection with your pet. Our brain waves are different as we awaken and as we drift off to sleep. At these times, look at a photo of your pet, feel the love extending from your heart across the miles to the heart of the animal, and send a message that you love and miss him, and reiterate how many "sleeps" remain before your return. If you dream about your pet, it is likely that the animal is reaching out to you energetically, so savor the connection.
6) Celebrate your reunion. When you finally return home, greet your pet immediately and repeat how much you love and have missed her. Cuddle, play, and provide a favorite treat, and leave the smart phone and television off. Your pet deserves your full attention before you return to the distractions of your normal routine.
Your pet is a living being with emotional and physical needs, not a part of the interior decor. For one who provides unconditional love and asks for so little in return, a little effort to ensure his or her comfort and security is the least you can do.
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