5 Things to Help You (and Your Pet) Adjust to an Empty Nest

By on August 25, 2017
5 Things to help you and your pet adjust to an empty nest

Walking in the door after the kids go back to college seems like sweet freedom — for a day or two. After that, a quiet house can start to feel lonely.

And not just for you: a 2015 survey by Petplan pet insurance* revealed that pets also feel the effects of an empty nest, with 29% of furry friends showing signs of separation anxiety at the end of the summer season.

How do you beat the back-to-school blues? Grab your best friend and give these five tips a try.

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  1. Exercise together.

Nothing makes a little sadness worse than sitting around the house stewing. And while you’re meandering down memory lane, your pet can become frustrated from the lack of stimulation. In fact, 15% of pets in Petplan’s survey engaged in destructive behaviors following the departure of a family member at the start of the school year.

The best thing for both of you is to work it out! “Exercise beats boredom, eases stress, and boosts both physical and mental health in innumerable ways,” says Natasha Ashton, co-founder and co-CEO of Petplan. “A consistent exercise routine helps burn anxious energy and can keep you and your best friend balanced while you adjust to your new normal.”

  1. Cook up some fun.

It can be hard to accept that life won’t ever be quite the same again once the kids are out of the house, but trying new things can help open you up to fresh experiences. And what’s more fun than experimenting with food?

Find a dish with ingredients you’ve been curious to try and let your inner Emeril loose! There are lots of vet-authored cookbooks and recipes out there to get Fido in on the fun, too.

  1. Get social.

Whether you’re married or single, chances are your social life has revolved around your kids for the past few decades. Now is a great time to get out again and make new friends — and a dog is the ultimate icebreaker.

Leash up and head out to the local dog park or pet-friendly cafe. “Not only will it give you a chance to mix and mingle, but you’ll save your pup from becoming one of the 29% of pets who spend less time outside once school is in session,” says Ashton.

  1. Look for love.

A big reason it’s so hard to send the kids back to school is the void left in the love department when they leave. Humans are tribal by nature (and pets move in packs), so we do best when surrounded by those with whom we feel most connected.

“Just because your family is far away doesn’t mean there has to be less love in your — or your pet’s — life,” says Ashton. “Make a visit to the local pet-friendly senior living facility or hospital, or stop by to check in on an elderly neighbor. It can brighten your day, comfort people who may also be lonely and provide your pet with some much-needed attention and socialization. It’s a win-win for everyone, two- and four-legged alike.”

  1. Busy your brains.

You know that learning a new skill can keep your mind sharp; well, the same goes for the canine brain. Once the kids go back to class, sign up for a few lessons of your own.

Obedience training provides mental enrichment and physical exercise for your pet while you learn something, too. Training together can strengthen your bond and show you a whole new side of your pet (bonus: you wind up with a perfectly behaved pooch!).

Every major life change comes with its set of challenges, but pet parents are lucky in that they have someone cute with whom to weather the storm. These things will help keep you and your pet healthy and happy as you count down to Thanksgiving break!


*The Petplan survey sample size was approximately 4,000 respondents.


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5 Things to Help You (and Your Pet) Adjust to an Empty Nest