OTTAWA -- Pet owners are being urged to take steps to prepare your cat, dog or other animals for a return to the normal routine as the COVID-19 restrictions begin to be eased.

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society says after spending more time with pets and taking them for extra walks, people need to take steps to reduce separation anxiety now before you return to work.

“The easiest way to help your pet cope with these changes is to keep their routine consistent,” said Dave Wilson, Senior Director, Shelter Health & Wellness, Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

“Knowing what to expect and when gives our pets a sense of control in their environment and supports their emotional health.”

The Ontario SPCA shares five tips to prevent separation anxiety and unwanted behaviours when you return to a normal work schedule.

Create a consistent daily routine

The Ontario SPCA says if your pet only went on three walks per day before COVID-19, maintain that level so when you return to work, your pet doesn’t expect to go on 10 walks a day!

Consistent meal times

Meal time should be at roughly the same time daily. The Ontario SPCA says if your pet’s meal times have changed since you’ve been home more, slowly start to move the time back to when they would normally be fed.

Quiet time

The Ontario SPCA recommends you institute “nap time” or “quiet time” throughout the day.  The time away from your desk and resting will help your pet adjust to more upcoming time alone.

Go outside

The Ontario SPCA suggests pet owners go outside for a few minutes and then return.

“Animals need to understand that you can leave, and you can always come back. That will help reduce separation anxiety.”

New toys

Provide self-entertaining toys, or chew toys, to encourage independent activities