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How to help manage pet separation anxiety

To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and embrace alone time, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmart’s consulting animal behaviorist and separation anxiety expert.

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Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam from Unsplash.com

For more than a year, working from home and keeping social circles small due to COVID-19 has meant people have been able to spend more time with their pets. However, as more people are vaccinated and restrictions loosen across the country, it’s likely many are spending less time at home with their pets. As a result, pet parents should be prepared to spot the signs of separation anxiety and help their pets manage.

When left at home alone, pets can exhibit behaviors that could indicate they’re experiencing separation anxiety. It’s not a new problem, but it can become more pronounced as pet parents begin to spend less time at home, whether they’re returning to work full-time or just leaving the house more often. It may be especially challenging for pets that found their forever homes during the pandemic, as being alone may be a stark contrast to what they’ve become accustomed to. In these cases, pets may struggle to learn how to cope with being by themselves.

To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and embrace alone time, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmart’s consulting animal behaviorist and separation anxiety expert.

How to Identify Separation Anxiety

Changes in behavior are some of the most common indicators of separation anxiety. These behaviors are coping mechanisms and can include excessive barking or whining, destruction near exit points or windows, having accidents around the house, hyper salivating, pacing, decreased appetite and depression. To better understand what your pet is experiencing, consider setting up a video camera when you leave to see how he or she behaves when you’re not there.

Ways to Prepare Your Pet for Separation

Unpredictability has been shown to add stress for many animals, including dogs, Coppola said. Routines, however, can help many pets cope with stressful situations. Because a vacation or long weekend getaway involves a change in your pet’s routine, these seemingly small changes can make him or her susceptible to separation anxiety. If you know change is coming, slowly introduce your pet to the idea of being alone beforehand to help your four-legged friend prepare. Start by taking short trips outside your home without your pet – even if just for a few minutes – and consider leaving treats or toys to help make the alone time more enjoyable.

When you are ready to leave the house, set up a cozy, inviting space for your pet, where he or she can’t destroy items or get hurt trying to escape. Consider a non-carpeted area in case of accidents or install a doggie door to allow for going outside when necessary. Prior to any period of alone time, mentally and physically engaging your pet by going for a walk or run, or working on quick trick training, can make it more likely he or she spends at least some of the time you’re gone resting.

While you’re gone,  Coppola recommends providing your pets with enrichment activities such as puzzles, chews and calming aids.

Solutions for Coping with Anxiety

If your pet is excessively barking or exhibiting destructive behaviors, never punish him or her and avoid expressing disappointment or frustration, Coppola said. It is understandable to feel this way, but it can upset your pet further and add to the stress he or she may already be feeling. Instead, spend time having fun together when you are home to help ease the transition by gradually introducing your pet to the amount of time left alone.

Learn more and find additional solutions to help deal with separation anxiety at petsmart.com/newnormal.

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Pet Care

Home sweet home: Pet cats rarely stray far

The domestic cat is one of our most popular pets. In Norway alone, 5.4 million people own approximately 770,000 cats. But where do our four-legged friends go? The cat wants to go outside, you open the door, it leaves and disappears. After a while it returns, but where was it in the meantime?

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Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev from Unsplash.com

The domestic cat is one of our most popular pets. In Norway alone, 5.4 million people own approximately 770,000 cats. But where do our four-legged friends go? The cat wants to go outside, you open the door, it leaves and disappears. After a while it returns, but where was it in the meantime? 

Researchers and master’s students at NMBU, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, are shedding some light on the feline mystery. They have GPS-marked almost 100 pet cats in a small town in Eastern Norway and tracked the cats when they were outside.

“The goal was to map the movements of  an entire population of pet cats within the same area,” says NMBU-professor Richard Bischof.

The cat owners all lived within about one square kilometer, which gave the researchers a very detailed insight into many cats’ activities within a limited area. The high number of cats within such a small area makes this cat tracking study unique.

In your neighbor’s garden

The results from this small Norwegian town corresponds with similar research from other European countries: the answer to the cat mystery lies significantly closer to home than the owners probably expected.

The cats spent an average of 79% of their time outdoors within 50 meters of the owner’s home. The average maximum distance for all cats was 352 meters.

“Some individuals traveled relatively far, sometimes several kilometers, but those were the exceptions,” says Bischof.

Most cats are literally just around the corner when they are outside.

The “catscape”

“As far as we know, no one has ever tracked that many cats in one small area. This made it possible for us to show what a domestic cat population looks like in time and space,” Bischof says.

“We tend to think of animal populations as a collection of individuals or a single number,” Bischof continues. “Instead, I prefer to see them as surfaces that envelop and interact with the landscape.”

Bischof also points out that most cat owners probably do not think of their cat as a member of a larger animal population. But they are clearly part of what the researchers called the “catscape” in their article.

“The catscape is the combined intensity with which an area is used by all cats living there, and we were able to create a map of it using GPS data,” Bischof says. 

Large differences between individuals

The results showed that there was great variation between the individual cats in how they used the landscape.

“This is quite typical,” says Bjarne O. Braastad, professor emeritus of ethology at NMBU. “Cats have different personalities, and research results reflect this: there is often great variation.”

He goes on explaining that the cats probably spend a lot of time near the home in their own garden to rest.

“It is also worth noting that almost all the cats were neutered,” he adds. “It will of course play an important role. Neutered cats are less likely to roam.”

Student participation

How the animals use the landscape also dictates how they interact with the environment. And cats definitely have some effects on their natural surroundings.

“An interesting topic for further studies is of course the effects on local wildlife,” says project manager and professor Torbjørn Haugaasen. “We did not have the opportunity to include it in this project period, but in the future we would like to take a closer look at that as well.”

A large part of the project has been carried out by NMBU’s master’s students.

“It has been a good combination of research and education,” says Haugaasen. “The students have gained a lot of practical experience with applied science, and also been co-authors of the scientific article.”

Popular project

Although the study has so far been focused on eastern Norway, rumors spread, and the project received inquiries from across the country to join.

“People are obviously very curious about what their cat does when it is out and about. Interest has been really high,” says Haugaasen.

After the data collection and data analysis was complete, the cat owners gained access to digital maps where they could see where their pet had been. The researchers conclude by pointing out how important the cat owners’ help has been.

“We could not have done this without them. As an added bonus, we had the opportunity to include many families with children in our research. Maybe we have inspired some budding scientists?” 

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Pet Care

4 Tips to make adopting a dog a paws-itive experience

When you involve the entire family and plan ahead, you can be better prepared to provide a loving home and enjoy all the unconditional love only a four-legged best friend can give.

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Photo by Hannah Lim from Unsplash.com

Adding a dog to the family can be exciting, but it comes with responsibility, too. When you involve the entire family and plan ahead, you can be better prepared to provide a loving home and enjoy all the unconditional love only a four-legged best friend can give.

From preparing your home to researching the best dog for your family and completing the adoption process, these tips and insights from the PEDIGREE brand’s “Ultimate Guide to Dog Adoption” can help you prepare for what to expect:

1. Prepare Your Home for Adoption
In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, prep your home and make sure you have all the necessary items for your furry friend’s arrival. You’ll need supplies like a crate or kennel, food and water bowls, collar, leash, grooming supplies and toys. It’s also a good idea to stock up on puppy pads and cleaning supplies for inevitable accidents when you’re potty training.

2. Search for Your Ideal Dog
When you start your search, you’ll likely discover a wealth of choices and options. Think about your lifestyle and the type of breed, mix or size dog that best suits your family. Some breeds require more exercise than others, so you’ll need a fenced yard or enough time for regular walks. Also think about grooming and maintenance; longer-haired dogs require more regular, hands-on care. If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, try using a breed selector tool to help narrow down the choices.

3. Encourage Kids to Get Involved
Childhood pets can create sacred memories in later years, and having your kids take an active role in helping choose the family dog can make the experience even more special. Kids aren’t always able to communicate what they envision, but they can often show you in a drawing.
Now, thanks to AI technology and machine learning, you can have fun with the process of finding a dog and use a tool like the PEDIGREE brand’s Rescue Doodles to match your child’s drawing with a similar looking, adoptable dog nearby. To match a doodle with an adoptable pup, parents take a snap of their child’s masterpiece and text it to the dedicated number to guide them to an available dog nearby.

4. Begin the Shelter Adoption Process
To find “your dog,” keep an open mind. It’s important to find the right dog for you – one that fits your lifestyle, family dynamic and home. Be prepared to visit and meet potential matches as many times as it takes. Bring a notepad and pen so you can write down pertinent information and important questions you want to ask, including any information the shelter can provide about the dog’s history, health, training and behavior. Once you find the right dog to join your family, be prepared for some paperwork. Adoption questionnaires help shelters ensure dogs are going to loving, responsible families that are willing to provide forever homes.

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Pet Care

5 Ways to go plant-first with your pet

Even dogs can play a role in going plant first. One simple way to make a positive change is to incorporate a plant-first, nutritious diet for your dog.

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There are many reasons people shift toward eating less meat. While some are looking to improve personal health, others are making the conscious decision to reduce meat consumption for the health of the planet.

However, doing good for Mother Nature with your diet doesn’t mean you have to go full vegan or swear off meat forever. If everyone takes collective, small steps toward a greener world, it can help better the planet – dogs can help, too. If you’re looking to try a plant-first lifestyle for you and your dog, consider committing to these simple tips from KARMA pet food.

Go Meatless One Day a Week
When starting out on your plant-first journey, it can be intimidating to figure out how to cook without animal proteins, especially if you’ve been eating that way your whole life. Sometimes, it’s easiest to start small. Try to go meatless one day a week. Once you get the hang of cooking meatless meals, you may find you’re more comfortable making recipes without meat more often.

Focus on Protein-Rich Plants
There are a variety of protein-rich plants available, including tofu (made from soybeans), lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans, potatoes, vegetables and more. Open any plant-focused cookbook and you will find plenty of recipes to try. From familiar favorites modified to be meatless to new, adventurous combinations, you may find a new go-to dish.  

Try Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
As more people are searching for alternative proteins, many are turning to plant-based “meat” alternatives. As you peruse the grocery store aisles, you may find a variety of plant-based meat alternatives created to look, feel and taste like the real thing. Several restaurant chains also offer these plant-based meat alternatives on their menus, so you have options whether eating in or dining out.  

Eat Animal Protein Other Than Red Meat
You don’t have to fully abandon meat. It’s about taking small steps. Try just making a shift away from red meat. By making a choice to consume animal proteins that make less of an environmental impact, such as chicken or fish, you are still taking a step toward a greener lifestyle.

Try a Plant-First Pet Food
Even dogs can play a role in going plant first. One simple way to make a positive change is to incorporate a plant-first, nutritious diet for your dog. Talk to your veterinarian about switching your dog to a plant-first dog food, such as KARMA Balanced Nutrition, which is crafted with more than 60% plants plus real chicken or sustainably sourced white fish. With a balance of plant and meat proteins, you can nourish your dog’s whole-body health and vitality while living a greener lifestyle.

Visit karmapetfoods.com/kollective to learn more about leading an earth-friendly lifestyle with your pet.

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