Heading back to school can be rough on the entire family, especially the kids and four-legged family members. The huge changes after a laid-back, casual summer routine can spell trouble when you’re trying to herd the kids out the door and the pets back inside on the first day of school. To help your pet cope with the abrupt switch from a summer to a school schedule, our team offers a list of do’s and don’ts for a smooth back-to-school transition.

DO exercise your pet before school

While you’re rushing to prepare lunches, brush your children’s hair, find lost shoes, and check last night’s homework, don’t forget to squeeze in some time for your pet. They will soon be cooped up for the day without any family interaction, so they need time to exercise and socialize before school. Wake up at least 15 minutes earlier to play a rousing game of fetch, briskly jog around the neighborhood, or provide a stimulating training session. A well-exercised pet is more likely to snooze the day away than get into mischief.

DON’T cram all your pet’s family time into the weekends

Your weekdays are likely packed full of homework, after-school activities, and sports practices, leaving you little time to play with your pet in between cooking dinner and bedtime. However, try to spend time with your pet each day, instead of waiting to play and exercise until your—perhaps—less hectic weekends. Give your pet a quick brushing or cuddle session during commercial breaks, or while the kids finish up their homework. Engage the entire family in a fun training activity or game before dinner, and then relax together for the rest of the evening. Your pet will appreciate not feeling ignored throughout the week, plus the interaction can lower the whole family’s stress levels.

DO provide enrichment activities for your pet when they are home alone

Give your pet plenty to do while the family is gone. Give them their food in a puzzle feeder instead of a boring old food dish, or offer a long-lasting chew or treat. Purchase an interactive toy that will entice your pet to play or chase and help them burn off energy. Rotate your pet’s toys to keep them fresh and interesting, and scatter them around your home, so your furry pal can find new fun around every corner.

DON’T trust your pet to find their own entertainment

Some pets don’t do well when left unsupervised. They can become bored and destructive, and create ways to entertain themselves that you likely won’t appreciate. Instead of allowing your pet free access to your entire house, block off a playpen in a fairly indestructible section. You can also hire a pet sitter to play with and entertain your pet throughout the day, or you can sign up your dog for doggy daycare, so they can enjoy the company of other canines.

DO gradually change your pet’s schedule

Sudden changes, whether in routines, family situations, or the environment, can cause stress and anxiety in pets. Cats in particular can become so stressed that they develop a condition known as feline idiopathic cystitis, an inflammatory bladder condition that leads to inappropriate urination. Instead of waking up hours earlier than normal on the first day of school, gradually change the household’s wake-up time to a school-time schedule. Encourage your pet to get out of bed, eat breakfast, and take a walk early in the morning, and then let them settle in with their treat or toy. Ideally, leave them to their own devices as you will when the family leaves for school and work, so they get used to being alone.

DON’T leave backpacks and lunchboxes in paws’ reach

Backpacks and lunchboxes are full of interesting items for your pet. But, glue, paint, pens, grapes, raisins, and other craft supplies and snacks can be hazardous or toxic to their health. Teach your kids to put their school supplies away when they come home, and to keep lunch boxes zipped shut and out of reach. 

DO watch your pet for separation anxiety signs

Some pets do not adjust well to the change in routine when the house becomes empty. They develop separation anxiety if left alone for long time periods and may exhibit destructive behavior and inappropriate elimination that indicate their stress and anxiety. If you come home to accidents on the floor, shredded blinds, or a chewed-on couch, your pet may need help coming to terms with the school year and being alone.

If your furry pal is not coping well with the kids going back to school and their separation anxiety is making them—and you—a nervous wreck, contact our Premier Pet Hospital team for an appointment for a consult.