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My Pet World: Dog struggling with family returning to work post-COVID

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I have a seven-year-old male dog who just started marking in the house, mostly in my master bedroom. Yes, there are lots of things going on. A daughter moved out and is getting married. My husband was working from home a lot; now it’s just one day a week. I was home more during the earlier days of the pandemic, but now am returning to normal workdays. I feel like these things are just “life,” and he has been through our daughters going off to college, first daughter moving out, and many other changes before. So, why is he marking now and how do I make him stop? What can we do other than not let him upstairs? I can’t supervise him constantly. Last time I brought him upstairs, I went into the closet for a moment, and he marked in the minute that I wasn’t watching him. – Margo, Yorktown, Virginia

Dear Margo,

When a dog starts a new behavior, the first thing to do is take him to the vet to make sure there are no health problems. When animals have urinary infections and other illnesses, they can have accidents, so please rule out health problems first.

While your dog may be used to life changes, he can still get stressed, and is likely stressed over you and your husband no longer being home all the time. Many dogs and cats are experiencing the loss of their families post-COVID-19 as their families return to offices and school. During this transition, maintain his COVID-19 routine as much as possible. If you were giving him a 30-minute walk every day, make time to work that walk in before or after work now. If you brushed him for 10 minutes every day, make sure that is still a part of his routine. You can slowly wean him off other activities you no longer can accommodate in your schedule, but keep playtime, walks and grooming a part of his everyday schedule as much as possible.

Next, get him a pheromone collar to wear and put a pheromone plug-in in your bedroom. Canine pheromones can help dogs feel less anxious, which may reduce the marking.

Finally, while you don’t need to monitor him 24/7, you must monitor him when he is in your room since that is where the problem is occurring. Don’t ever punish him. Instead, distract him with a puzzle toy so he doesn’t think about marking anymore. Clean up the urine with an enzymatic cleaner. By removing the scent, you are removing his desire to remark in that place.

Dear Cathy,

I have a cat that is 18-1/2 years old. We are going to Florida for four months. She is very attached to us, but we don't know if she is too old to bring with us. What should we do? – Carol, Syosset, New York


Dear Carol,

I recommend taking her with you. If you leave her behind, she could become very depressed because of being separated from you. Drive her rather than fly her to Florida. While in the car, keep her in an airline kennel or wire crate large enough for her to stand up and turn around in. Make sure she has a very soft bed or blanket to sleep on. At her age, her joints will get stiff if she must sleep on a hard surface.

Let her out of the crate once or twice during each day’s drive to allow her to use the litterbox and get some water. For her safety, remain in the car with the doors closed when you do this. Do not open the door or let anyone else in or out of the vehicle, so she is unable to bolt from the vehicle.

For the trip, make sure you have all her belongings, medications, food, and even a jug or two of the local water. You could get her used to an inexpensive spring water before you leave, and then slowly adjust her to the new water in her new home by mixing it with the local water. Wait to feed her at night. You also should carry her veterinary records in case you need care along the way, and make sure her ID tag and microchip are up-to-date with your new, albeit temporary, location.

I know you’re worried about her traveling, but a car trip is fine if you make her comfortable during the ride. I don’t think she will fare well if you leave her behind.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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