As summer draws to a close, children and parents are preparing for the return-to-school days. While your focus is likely on school supply lists, meeting the teachers, and ensuring all the registration fees are paid, you should also spend some time preparing your pet for the school routine. A sudden change in schedule and home environment can be shocking for pets, and can lead to behavior issues, if not handled with care. Pets who experience an upheaval in their normal routine may turn to destructive behavior, excessive vocalization, and inappropriate elimination. However, a few simple changes made in advance can help you successfully prepare your furry pal for the school year.

Caring for your pet before school

During the summer, your pet has likely become used to sleeping in until they heard kibble being poured in their dish. However, this time will come much earlier when the school year starts. To avoid stressful, sudden changes, try the following tips for caring for your pet before the family heads off to school and work:

  • Acclimate your pet to an earlier wake-up time — As the final days of summer draw to a close, slowly begin moving up your wake-up time to prevent a sudden jump. By the time school starts, your pet should be used to waking up relatively close to the time needed to get everyone ready and out the door. 
  • Exercise your pet before school — Although no one wants to wake up any earlier than needed, your furry pal needs to stretch their legs before being left home alone for the day. Quickly jog around the block with your dog, or play stalk-and-pounce with your cat’s feather wand. 
  • Allow your pet time to eliminate — Dumping food in a bowl right before you walk out the door may be alright for your cat, but your dog will need time to digest and eliminate before they are confined indoors all day. Feed them as soon as you wake up, and then head outside for exercise and elimination.
  • Pet-proof your home — A pet who is left home alone may entertain themselves by getting into mischief. Ensure electrical cords are covered or out of reach, small toys and other objects are put away, and kitchen and bathroom access is blocked. Some pets may need crating when left alone, while others can lounge on the couch all day unsupervised, so do a short trial run before the first day of school to see what your pet will need.

Caring for your pet during school

When the entire family is out of the house, your pet may feel lonely and bored. Stave off boredom- or anxiety-induced problem behaviors with these fun ideas:

  • Offer treat puzzles — Giving your pet a long-lasting treat or chew before you leave is great, but turning the treat into a puzzle is greater. Purchase a product or design your own puzzle using cardboard boxes and tubes, crumpled paper, and old socks. Your imagination is the limit for creating pet treat puzzles, and you can swap them out to prevent boredom.
  • Hire a pet sitter — If your pet needs more interaction and exercise than you can provide before and after school, hire a pet sitter. This way, your furry pal will get plenty of playtime and activity when you are not at home, and be ready to relax during the hustle and bustle of getting the kids ready for bed.
  • Leave on the TV — Sometimes, all your pet needs to not feel lonely is some background noise. Turn on their favorite TV show—wildlife documentaries are usually a hit—or a relaxing radio station to replace the silence.

Caring for your pet after school

After school, you’re likely busy preparing afternoon snacks, checking homework, making dinner, and ensuring everyone has their things together for the next day. Finding time to care for your pet can be tough, but focus on the following:

  • Set aside one-on-one time — In the morning, the house may be too hectic to spend much personal time with your pet, so ensure you devote some time in the evening solely to hanging out with your pet, whether it’s playing, grooming, or simply snuggling.
  • Get plenty of exercise — A pet who receives inadequate exercise is not only bored, but also predisposed to obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other health issues. Always set aside time to ensure your pet gets plenty of exercise throughout the week.

As your children are getting their back-to-school physicals performed, don’t forget to schedule one for your pet. Contact our Midtown Veterinary Hospital team to schedule your pet’s annual physical exam.