One of the few bright spots of quarantine was having more quality time with our four-legged family members. Cuddly coworkers! Midday walks! No more sad eyes on the way out the door! But now that we’re heading back to the office, our fur babes need some extra TLC to adjust. (As do we, frankly.)
With a little planning, you can help your pet acclimate to a new (or old) routine that, while it may not be as fun as taking Zoom calls together on the couch, can help them relax until you come home. The folks at Chewy are trusted pros at all things pet-related — from food to toys to endless essentials, and even expert vet advice — so we figured they would know best how to keep our pets happy and healthy during this transition. We spoke with Chewy’s senior veterinarian, Dr. Katy Nelson, who shared some amazing tips to make your return to the office easier for both you and your pets.
Getting back into a normal routine is a process, so take your time. While you’re still working from home, Dr. Nelson suggests re-establishing approximate schedules for meals, bathroom breaks, and rounds of fetch. (As tough as it is, try to limit play during work hours.) Next, try going out to run errands a couple days a week around the same time that you’d leave for work. This will help get them used to the idea of your leaving for the day.
Likewise, making sure your pets have what they need to feel safe and comfortable while you’re out can go a long way. Crates and gates can offer dogs a comforting sense of security, and a multi-story cat tower with built-in bed lets cats feel like they own the place (although they probably already think that).
Ask anyone who’s been awakened at 5 a.m. by a dog who needs to go outside: Pets are creatures of habit. A morning departure routine will bring much-appreciated predictability and comfort. Before you leave for work, give them plenty of attention, and maybe a calming treat for relaxation. It’s often helpful to avoid touching or eye contact when you’re about to leave, but definitely use your best upbeat, who’s-a-good-boy? voice. If your dog or cat starts showing signs of separation anxiety, like destructive behavior or “accidents,” it might be time to talk to a vet. Chewy’s Connect with a Vet helps you get advice fast, and it’s free for Chewy Autoship customers.
A brisk morning walk or a spirited game of tug-of-war before work will help tucker your pet out, so they’re less energized (and likelier to nap) while you’re gone. And remember, animals get bored just like people. As Chewy explains on their site, our pets need to exercise their brains, and older pets especially can benefit from puzzle-solving toys, which have been proven to slow cognitive decline. Dr. Nelson recommends investing in some interactive fun — like puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, and hide-and-seek toys — to occupy their attention until you come home. Consider them your pet’s version of WFH.
Welcome to the reality show that is your pets while you’re away: A pet camera gives you both peace of mind and a healthy dose of cuteness whenever you need it. (Hey, this is a hard transition for us, too.) Chewy also has a fantastic list of all the ways tech can make your pet’s day easier. An automatic feeder will keep them on their meal schedule, and a self-cleaning litter box can be monitored via smart phone for easy remote maintenance. On a similar note, doing a double check for stray electronics cords or fragile items that need to be secured is a quick way to pet-proof your home and know your pets are safe on their own.
Enlist Help When You Need It
Have a friend stop by in the middle of the day for a visit (and a potty break). Or hire a dog walker to give your pet some afternoon exercise. If you find that your pet isn’t adjusting well (think accidents, messes, or excessive barking), consider consulting a trainer. And with Chewy’s Connect with a Vet service, you can text or video chat licensed vets and get fast answers to health and behavior questions — even from your office.