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Did you get a pet during the pandemic who’s been having a tough transition to being alone on some or all weekdays as you transition from working from home? Today we’re rounding up tips on how to keep your pet happy when you’re at work. Hopefully these tips will ease your worry while you’re working and reduce your chances of finding mess and destruction when you get home!
How do you keep your dog or cat happy while you’re at work, readers? If you have a dog and work long hours, do you have a dog-walker visit during the day?
We’ve talked about how to decide if your family is ready for a pet (over at CorporetteMoms) and how to get a dog when you work a lot (TL; DR a dog-walker is ideal!), but we’ve never devoted a post to keeping your dog or cat happy when they’re alone at home. (Readers, let us know if there’s any particular pet content you’d like to see in the future! I am the resident cat lady at Corporette.)
How to Keep Your Pet Happy When You’re at Work
Consider a Second Pet for Company
Clearly, this is a decision that you (and whomever you live with) shouldn’t take lightly, but if you can handle the extra expense, and have the time, adopting a buddy for your pet can be a great idea to reduce loneliness and boredom (and in turn, negative behavior). Adopting only one kitten, for example, can lead to “Single Kitten Syndrome,” which brings several undesirable behavioral issues. Two kittens will enjoy joint playtime, roughhousing, and naps. (Adult cats appreciate friends, too.)
The “Get them a friend” suggestion applies more to cats and to adult dogs. If you have a puppy (not an ideal choice for a busy professional, but you can make it work), adding a second puppy will probably create enough stress (for YOU, that is!) that it won’t be worth the companionship. Adding a cat to a cat household can be delicate and tricky (it can take days, weeks, or months for them to get along, or at least tolerate each other), so adopting two at the same time is best. (Here are tips for introducing a new cat.)
A dog and a cat can certainly get along, but of course there are exceptions, such as dog breeds with strong prey drives. If you adopt from a rescue group’s or shelter’s foster home that has firsthand information on how a dog or cat gets along with resident cats or dogs, that’ll cut down on the surprises.
Provide Interactive Toys
Enrichment is key to occupy pets’ alone-time and keep their bodies and brains busy.
Give your dog “busy toys.” Ones to try include puzzle toys, treat dispenser balls, and lick mats. You can make your own puzzle toys, too.
Here’s a cheap tip from straight from my mom, a longtime Lab owner: Put a biscuit in a Kong, fill it with peanut butter, and stick it in the freezer. When you leave for work, give it to your pup straight from the freezer — the texture will slow them down and keep them busy, distracting them from your departure.
For cats, try ball-and-track toys, puzzle toys, motion-activated toys, and hanging toys — or make your own. If you have a super-energetic cat, you can even get a cat treadmill. Plus, get lots of springs, balls, and other small toys, and spread them around your home (with of course, scratchers and scratching posts!). (Fortunately, most kitties will sleep the whole time you’re gone, or almost the whole time.)
Provide Comforting Background Noise
Many pets feel more comfortable without complete silence, so consistent sounds can comfort them — and also block out scary noises from outside.
Here are some options:
- White noise: Get a no-frills machine or play white noise on Alexa, Spotify, etc.
- TV/radio or streaming services (Ha, anyone still have a radio?) Studies have shown that classical music and easy listening can be soothing, and you can even create pet playlists on Spotify!
- YouTube videos for pets: Find an hours-long video like this one with birds and squirrels for easy entertainment.
- Your own voice: If you have a pet camera like this one from eufy, you can talk to your pet remotely (but do a trial run first to make sure it doesn’t stress them out).
Make It Easy to Look Outside — and Make the View More Interesting
If you have a cat, get a window perch with suction cups or place a tall cat tree in front of a sliding glass door or window.
Get a window bird feeder for pet entertainment — one of our cats LOVES watching the birds up close on this one, and the birds usually aren’t scared of seeing him through the glass. If you have a yard, throw some seed or corn on the ground to attract squirrels and chipmunks.
Exercise Your Dog Before You Leave (and Possibly When You’re Gone)
Playing fetch with, walking your dog, or visiting a dog park right before you leave will (in theory!) mellow them out — and tire them out — so that they’ll be relaxed for the initial part of your absence. If they’re high-energy (or overweight), think about hiring a dog-walker from a service like Rover or having a mature teenager or a college student walk your dog after school. Local community Facebook groups are great for finding people, too; just ask for references.
- Feliway artificial pheromones can calm cats, though YMMV. We used these plug-ins when our new cats and two existing cats were getting used to living together. They make diffusers for dogs, too (though they’re less common), like this ThunderEase one.
- Crate-training your dog is a great idea — for example, for when your dog is getting used to being alone. Here are tips.
- If your cat is having litter box issues, start with a vet visit to rule out health problems.
- Try anti-chew or anti-scratch sprays if your pets are getting into trouble when you’re gone. Here’s an anti-chew product for dogs and a deterrent spray for cats.
- Pet-proof your home with cord covers, childproof cupboard latches, and more (if you have a curious kitty or pooch). Here are tips!
- Consult an animal behaviorist or trainer if your dog has severe separation anxiety. Some do virtual consultations. Ask your vet or local animal shelter for suggestions or check the CAAB directory or AVSAB directory.
Readers, do tell! How do you keep your pet happy when you’re at work? Any tips to share or lessons learned to pass along?
Stock photo via Stencil.