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Do you have a pet during the pandemic who has had a difficult transition to being alone some or all days of the week while you stop working from home? Today we’re collecting tips on how to keep your pet happy when you’re at work. We hope these tips ease your worry while you work and reduce your chances of encountering clutter 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 (on CorporetteMoms) and how to get a dog when you work a lot (TL;DR, a dog walker is ideal!), but we’ve never dedicated a post to keeping make your dog or cat happy when they are alone at home. (Readers, please let us know if there is any particular pet content you’d like to see in the future! I’m Corporette’s resident cat lady.)
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 whoever you live with) shouldn’t take lightly, but if you can handle the extra expense and have the time, adopting a companion for your pet can be a great idea to reduce loneliness. and boredom (and in turn, negative behavior). Adopting a single kitten, for example, can cause “unique kitten syndrome,” which leads to several undesirable behavioral problems. Two kittens will enjoy playing together, roughhousing, and naps. (Adult cats also appreciate friends.)
The “Get them a friend” suggestion applies more to adult cats and 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, of course!) that it won’t be worth the company. Adding a cat to a cat household can be delicate and complicated (it may take days, weeks, or months for them to get along, or at least tolerate each other), so it’s best to adopt two at the same time. (Here are some 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 instincts. If you adopt from a foster home, rescue group or shelter that has first-hand information about how a dog or cat gets along with the resident dogs or cats, that will reduce surprises.
Provide interactive toys
Enrichment is key to occupying pets’ alone time and keeping their bodies and brains occupied.
Give your dog “busy toys.” Ones you can try include puzzle toys, treat-dispensing balls, and lick mats. You can also make your own puzzles.
Here’s some money-saving advice straight from my mom, a long-time lab owner: Place a cookie in a Kong, fill it with peanut butter, and stick it in the freezer. When you go out to work, give it to your pup straight from the freezer; the texture will slow him down and keep him busy, distracting him from your game.
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. Also, get plenty of springs, balls, and other small toys and spread them around your house (with, of course, scratching posts and scratching posts!). (Fortunately, most kittens will sleep the entire time you’re gone, or most of the time.)
Provide comforting background noise
Many pets feel more comfortable without complete silence, so constant sounds can comfort them and also block out scary noises from outside.
Here are some options:
- White noise: Get a simple machine or play white noise on Alexa, Spotify, etc.
- TV/radio or streaming services (Ha, does anyone still have a radio?) Studies have shown that classical music and easy listening can be relaxing, and you can even create pet playlists on Spotify!
- YouTube Videos for Pets: Find an hour-long video like this one featuring 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 test first to make sure it doesn’t stress them out).
Make it easier to look out and make the view more interesting
If you have a cat, get a window spot with suction cups or place a tall cat tree in front of a sliding glass door or window.
Get a window bird feeder to entertain pets – one of our cats LOVES watching birds up close at this one, and the birds usually aren’t afraid to see him through the glass. If you have a garden, throw some seeds or corn on the ground to attract squirrels and chipmunks.
Exercise your dog before you leave (and possibly after you’re gone)
Playing fetch, walking your dog, or visiting a dog park right before you leave will calm them down (in theory!) and tire them out, so they’ll be relaxed during the initial part of your absence. If they have a lot of energy (or are overweight), consider hiring a dog walker from a service like Rover or having a mature teenager or college student walk your dog after school. Local community Facebook groups are also great for finding people; just ask for references.
- Feliway artificial pheromones It can calm cats down, though YMMV. We used these supplements when our new cats and two existing cats were getting used to living together. They also make diffusers for dogs (although they are less common), like this ThunderEase.
- Crate Training Your Dog It’s a great idea, for example, when your dog is getting used to being alone. Here are some tips.
- If your cat has problems with the litter boxIt starts with a visit to the vet to rule out health problems.
- Try anti-bite or anti-scratch sprays. if your pets get into trouble when you are away. Here you have an anti-bite product for dogs and a deterrent spray for cats.
- Pet-proof your home with cable covers, child-proof cabinet latches, and more (if you have a curious kitten or dog). Here are tips!
- Consult an animal behaviorist. or coach if your dog has severe separation anxiety. Some do virtual consultations. Ask your local veterinarian or animal shelter for suggestions or consult the CAAB or AVSAB directory.
Readers, say it! How do you keep your pet happy when you’re at work? Any tips to share or lessons learned to pass on?
File photo via template.