Tips to ensure your new pet can cope with alone time
By Lauren Corona
Jul 28, 2020 at 7:40 PM
If you have a newly adopted pet who's used to you working from home, you're likely wondering how to prepare them for eventually being home alone.
Even pets whose parents were previously at work all day may now have gotten used to them being at home and could struggle to readjust.
Whether you're returning to work soon or it's still a bit away, it's important to prepare ahead to make sure your four-legged family members aren't anxious.
Here are tips on how to make sure your pets are OK when you go back to work so you aren't worrying about them while you're away.
Build up your time out of the house
Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety, but it's much less common in cats, who are naturally solitary animals. One of the top tips from dog behaviorists when dealing with separation anxiety is to gradually increase the time you leave your dog alone. Start with just five to 10 minutes out of the house if you have an extremely anxious dog and increase it slightly each day until you're out of the house for a few hours at a time.
Of course, this is helpful if you have some advance warning about when you're restarting work, but not so much if you need to return on short notice. You can keep an eye on how your dog's coping while you're out of the house with a pet camera like the Petcube Play 2, which will give you some peace of mind even if you don't have the chance to gradually build up your time out of the house.
Make sure your pets are well exercised
If you give your pets plenty of exercise before you leave the house, they'll be tired and more likely to spend the next few hours snoozing. For dogs, this means taking them for a long walk or, even better, strapping on a hands-free leash and taking them for a run.
For cats, exercise will look different and is more likely to be an intense morning play session with a cat wand or any other toy that gets your cat chasing, stalking, and pouncing.
Provide mental stimulation
You wouldn't want to be sitting at home all day without anything to do, and the same goes for your pets. Of course, dogs and cats are much more prone to napping the day away than most humans, but it's still beneficial for them to have some sort of toy or activity to keep their brains active.
With dogs, of course, you need to make sure the toy is safe for them to be left with all day. If your dog is likely to attempt to rip the toy to shreds, it isn't a good idea to leave them home alone with it.
Leave the TV on
It might sound strange, but many folks find that voices from the TV help to keep pets calm when their humans can't be home. Stick to a low volume for the sake of your neighbors and avoid any channels or shows that might feature noises that could distress your pets (like loud buzzers on talk shows).
If you don't want to leave your TV on all day long because of the power consumption, you could invest in a cheap radio that's either battery operated or low wattage so its energy use will be negligible.
Try calming products
You can find a huge range of calming products for dogs and cats, some of which are hugely effective and others of which tend to fall flat. All pets are different, so it's worth trying a few options and comparing the results.
Calming treats for both dogs and cats can help somewhat. As can pheromone plug-ins and sprays -- Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs. Anxiety wraps and jackets, like the Thundershirt, can also help some dogs with separation anxiety.
Consider doggy daycare
We know it isn't an option for everyone due to financial reasons, but if your anxious dog can't stand being home alone all day, you could enroll them in a doggy daycare where they can be in the company of humans and other dogs while you're away.
There isn't really a cat equivalent of doggy daycare other than sending your feline friend to a cattery all day, but this is more likely to stress them out than reduce anxiety. You could try hiring a pet sitter to give your cat some attention for an hour or so during the day.
Similarly, if daycare isn't a good fit for your dog, hiring a dog walker to take your canine companion out around lunchtime will help break up the day while you're at work.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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