Long weekend trips and tropical getaways at winter and spring breaks provide great opportunities to escape the cold, but such trips can’t always include pets. And while you and your family look forward to time off from winter, your absence can cause real anxiety for your pet.

Both dogs and cats can suffer from separation anxiety. Understanding your pet’s trigger and what worries him will help you make him more comfortable while you are gone.

Pets can develop separation anxiety at any time in their lives for various reasons, from environmental changes to aging to loss of a companion (human or animal). For pet owners, the key is recognizing behavioral indicators and learning ways to address them that provide comfort and distraction. These indicators are quite different—and a lot more obvious—in dogs than in cats.

Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety may bark and whine excessively and can often become destructive, chewing window sills or doors, and tearing up carpeting or furniture. They may pace, drool, and have accidents in the house.

Alternatively, cats are more likely to sulk, hide and appear depressed. They may refuse to eat or vomit when you are away. They may moan, cry, or groom excessively. They generally are not destructive, but some may scratch walls or door edges, or they may have “accidents” in the form of urine or fecal marking.

It’s important to identify signs your pet may be distressed. Both dogs and cats may exhibit anxiety vocally or by following you around when they see signs you are leaving, such as a suitcase or car keys. Providing your pets with activities to keep them busy, toys that they get only when you are away, can be helpful.

Feeding toys are available for dogs and cats. Leaving a TV or radio on also provides company and covers the silence of an empty house.

Other treatments for dogs include:

  • A Thundershirt, which comforts a dog by providing gentle pressure over his body.

  • Obedience training, which builds a dog’s confidence when he is alone.

  • Train your dog to stay in a crate or a room with favorite toys and bedding, providing a space where he feels safe.

  • Take your dog for a walk before leaving to assure he works out excess energy.

  • Download and play “doggy music” during your absence to entertain and sooth him.

Other treatments for cats include:

  • Climbing toys or kitty condos that provide activities as well as a good view of the outdoors.

  • Moving and rolling toys, including some with catnip.

  • Place bird feeders near windows where your cat can see them.

Both dogs and cats who suffer from separation anxiety will benefit from practice drills. Leaving for a short time and gradually lengthening your time away will help your pet build confidence in being alone and that you always come back.

Understanding the cause of your pet’s anxiety is crucial both in keeping your pet comfortable and maintaining her health. Pets can become so anxious they are unable to eat, and this is especially dangerous for cats.

Your veterinarian can help you understand your pet’s needs and suggest appropriate solutions before you leave for a winter or spring vacation. At Lake Cable, our specialists are available to work with you before you finalize your plans, so you can leave assured that your pet is safe and happy.