Back to School

It’s that time of year again – lunches to make, buses to catch, homework to do – the general pace of life approaches frantic, at least until you’re settled into the new routine. But think about what it’s like for your pets – the slow pace of summer and having someone around most of the time is replaced with a whirlwind of activity in the morning – and then…nothing. All day.

If your dog or cat has been through this before, it might not be as hard – but then again it might be; just because pets have adjusted well in the past doesn’t mean it will go as smoothly this time.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your pet adjust to the new routine.

  1. First and foremost, make sure your pets’ basic needs are met. Don’t let busy days with early mornings and firm bedtimes, or excuses about whose turn it is, interfere with things your pets won’t always remind you of, like filling the water bowls and cleaning the litterboxes.
  2. If possible, begin a scaled back version of the new routine a week in advance. Start getting the kids up early, put their lunch boxes out, and leave the house for a while in the mornings. This will help to desensitize your pets to these stimuli.
  3. Get up a little earlier and start your day with some quality time with your pet. Begin with a cuddle and a quick play or walk. This has benefits for both of you: your pet gets some one-on-one attention before the chaos begins, and you get to start your day with some joyful moments of unconditional love.
  4. Enjoy breakfast together. Feed your dog or cat when you sit down to breakfast, and remember to talk to him or her – like you would if you were eating with any other loved one.
  5. Don’t make a big deal about leaving the house. Don’t fuss or say goodbye or go back for one last cuddle – you don’t want to reinforce any anxiety or stress your pet may be feeling.
  6. Time for some new toys! Providing novel and interactive toys for your pets will keep them occupied and stimulated so they don’t get lonely and bored. Try a few different toys and switch them often so they stay novel.
  7. Ask the kids to forego some screen time to spend some quality time with the pets right after school or during dinner preparation. If they are old enough to take the dog for a long walk, great – if not, consider a family walk, or taking the dog as soon as you get home.
  8. Let the pets hang out with the kids while they do their homework. Any contact with their people is great, even if they are playing or resting independently while the kids focus on history and geometry.
  9. Make time to play. Cats and dogs alike need playtime, and it’s not all for fun. Playtime provides for important mental stimulation, exercise, and bonding needs.
  10. End the day with a night-time stroll with your dog. Even a short walk around the block will help both of you settle for the night and prepare for a restful sleep.

As the school year goes on, your family’s schedule will continue to change. If you remember to consider your pet in these changes, things will go more smoothly for all of you. Since your dog or cat is an important family member, it’s fitting that the whole family pitch in to help with care.

Good luck at school!

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