Cats and dogs can suffer from several different types of anxiety including: social, noise, and separation. The symptoms that we generally notice are the wide range of behavioural problems associated with anxiety. These tends to be different for cats and dogs.
Cats and dogs that have not been properly socialized when they were young usually express this form of anxiety. In dogs the symptoms are usually feeling uncomfortable or cornered and they will either become timid or aggressive in social situations. Cats generally tend to act shy and run off to hide until the visitor is gone.
This is best exemplified by a dog cowering in fear from the far-off sound of fireworks. Loud noises may cause your cat or dog to hide, shake, cower, and urinate or become destructive and harm themselves. Vacuums, thunderstorms, and loud music can also be the cause of noise anxiety so pay close attention to your cat or dog to find out what noises cause the anxiety and try to limit exposure as best as possible.
Dogs are naturally highly social animals, so it makes sense that they get nervous and lonely when we leave them alone. Cats can develop separation anxiety as well. Changes in routine, new household members, a recent move, or sudden loss can all effect our cat or dog just as they affect us. Separation anxiety can also occur if a pet is overly attached to one member of the family, these pets insist on being with this person at all times and become anxious when that person is gone.
Anxiety can lead to long-term stress, resulting in physical issues like diarrhea and vomiting, compulsive self-licking, destructive chewing, and other behavioural problems. The physical effects of chronic stress can be devastating to the body:
Social anxiety can be prevented by socializing your cat or dog at a young age. Introduce them to new experiences and reassure them that it’s okay. Bring friends and family over and have them hold the puppy or kitten. By having them play and snuggle with different people, this will help them in the future.
Noise anxiety can be a difficult one to prevent. Thunderstorms and fireworks are out of our control. When they are young, try giving your pet a treat, belly rubs or cuddles to try and relieve any tension they have with noises. The vacuum can be brought out and left in an area where they usually hang out. Leave it there for a few days for them to get used to it. Then try turning it on and giving them praise and treats when they gather the courage to investigate. This may take some time but eventually they won’t even blink an eye when it’s time to vacuum.
Separation anxiety can be prevented by starting off small. Leave them in their crate or a small space like a laundry room for 5 minutes. The key is baby steps. Once they can go 5 minutes without wining or crying, try for 10 minutes. Always make sure treats and praise are given when they are showing you the correct behaviour. Another good way is get them tired before you leave. A good walk or a game will do just fine. If when you leave and they start to howl and cry, do not rush back in and comfort them. This will train them to think this behaviour is okay. It’s important to stay calm and assertive when putting the dog away. Try not to talk to them or look at them when you leave the room. By talking or extending your goodbyes may excite them and raise anxiety levels.
NaturPet Home Alone is a great way to help anxious pets from all forms of anxieties. It contains herbs known to relax and calm the body. For another great blog on more ways to reduce anxiety check out Psychology Today.