Back to School Can Be Depressing For Pets

Posted on September 28, 2007

Millions of younger students have headed back to grade school and high school while millions of older kids have headed off to college. Parents are often relieved when school begins again but the loss of their friends and the schedule disruption often leaves pets depressed. NBC News has an interesting article about this subject written by Kim Campbell Thornton. Thornton says it isn't unusual for pets to "go into a funk" when kids return to school. A big problem with this situation is that it is unexplainable to pets.

It isn't just dogs that get upset by the change. Cats can also get depressed when kids go back to school. Cats really aren't big fans of altered schedules to being with.

John C. Wright, an animal behaviorist and professor of psychology at Mercer University, tells NBC News, "It's important to the cat on a daily basis. So you have a disruption in daily routine when someone leaves for school, a disruption in the emotional security the cat has, and that can result in both emotional and behavioral depression."

Signs of depression in cats can range from lethargy to hyperactivity. Cats need stability - don't we all. Kids going off to college is probably the hardest on pets. When a child goes to grade school or high school at least are they are back the same day and the pet can adjust to the new schedule. But a college student may be gone for months at a time leaving the cat or dog missing their friend on a nearly permanent basis. One good remedy suggested in the article for a dog who is missing a friend is exercise.

Animal behaviorist Mary Lee Nitschke tells NBC News, "If the kid going off to school was the major source of the dog's playtime, then when you take that out of the environment, there's going to be what seems like a deficit to the dog. I would increase the physically active interactions with the dog. It's not a bad idea to get the dog used to being walked or played with by other members of the household before the child goes off to college or back to school."

The article also includes some tips for preventing separation anxiety by training your pets to spend time alone.

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