Pet Anxiety: Back-to-school Blues Not Just for Children
PARIS - Toys get destroyed, tears flow and tantrums abound: it's not just children that find it tough at the end of the summer holidays.
Pets are equally likely to have difficulty adapting to a more constrained lifestyle after weeks of freedom and many of them will develop full-blown cases of the "back-to-school blues", animal experts say.
In France, where month-long summer vacations are common, the problem is particularly acute.
"Every time we get back from holiday, my cat, Katou, uses my bed as a litter tray for several days," says Philippe Uzan, the proud owner of a Siamese.
Nana, a German Shepherd, refuses to eat from her bowl and ignores her owner, Monique Gastinel.
After several weeks romping along the beach, the sulking can last for days and, according to animal behavior expert Aline Auble, that's only to be expected.
"If a dog barks incessantly or chews the furniture when it gets back from a holiday, it is showing that it is missing having company and that it has the back-to-school blues," Auble said.
"Above all it is important that you do not punish them. By playing with things that belong to his master, the dog is maintaining a contact with him.
"They have to re-learn how to be on their own."
For both dogs and cats, animal professionals recommend trying to keep them occupied and stimulated during the long hours when parents are at work and children are at school.
"I advise hiding biscuits in different rooms for them to find -- if they are outside, cats will spend most of the day chasing butterflies and rodents," said veterinarian Celine Moussour.
Toys specially designed for animals can also help ward off the boredom that can spell danger for chair legs and shoes: for example a cylindrical biscuit dispenser that cats and puppies have to spin to the right spot to liberate the snacks.
According to Moussour, it's vital to get your pet back into its normal routine in the final days of a holiday.
"You have to resume morning and evening walks and feed them at the same time you do when you are working.
"For cats coming back to a house with a garden, it's important to keep them locked inside for two or three days to allow them to rediscover their territory and ensure they don't run away."
As with most people, pets tend to over-indulge on holiday and it's also important to re-establish healthier eating patterns. For dogs especially, the snacks have to stop to prevent weight gain over the winter months.