Pets are stressed when they come home from hospitalization. They are recovering from the trauma of their stay in a scary place and recuperating from the illness or injury that sent them there. They will also be stressed by the housemates they return to at home.

Their housemates waiting at home will react to the hospital smells and to the changes they perceive in their returning companion. Even a brief absence can disrupt the established social order, triggering conflicts when the hospitalized pet is reintroduced.

The longer your pet has been away, the more gradually she should be reintroduced. Isolate pets recovering from illness during the first few days they’re back home. Let them readjust gradually and without the additional stress of curious or hostile housemates. Make it comfortable and spend extra time in some agreeable and gentle form of interaction, such as petting. Confine your cat to a comfortable room for at least a few days with his own litter box, fresh water and food. Make frequent visits. Use baby gates to keep dogs apart from the rest of the pack for the first week or as needed.

House-soiling is common following a return from hospitalization or boarding. Pets may urinate or defecate in the home to reclaim territory and relieve anxiety. This can also happen because they’re so excited to be home or because control is affected by illness or medication. Don’t scold your pet for house soiling, particularly when they’ve already been through so much. Get dogs back in their normal leash walking routine as soon as you can. Prepare a clean litter box for your cat that is easy to access (low sides) during their recovery and beyond.

Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, MSc, Dip. ACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist and founder of If you need help with a misbehaving pet, please visit

© Stefanie Schwartz 2019