After weeks of staying at home in the company of your fluffy companion, the day has finally come when you can go back to work. Is this making you feel relieved? A little queasy, perhaps? After all, leaving pets behind (even if only for a few hours) is never easy. So how can you teach your pet to feel good at home while you both adjust to your normal routines? Here are our tips for a smooth transition.
What you can do to prepare your pet
1. Spend time in separate rooms. While you’re still at home, encourage your pet to spend time going about their day alone, slowly increasing the time that you’re apart. By slightly reducing the amount of interaction you have with them, your pet will learn to occupy himself and become more independent.
2. Begin to introduce routine changes. Have the times for feeding, grooming or walks changed while you were in lockdown? Gradually change them back to how they were before. Without realising, your pet will adapt to the new normal in no time.
3. Leave the house more frequently. Leave your pooch at home when going out for reasons other than walkies (like appointments, trips to the shop or other errands). This will encourage him to get more comfortable with you leaving again. Remember not to make a fuss when you leave or return, though. Your pet should see your departures and arrivals as something natural.
4. Hide treats around the house. Think ‘treat treasure hunt’! Scatter some treats in different places around the house about an hour or so before heading out. This game is great for both cats and dogs as it fulfils some of their most basic instincts, such as foraging for food, sniffing and hunting.
5. Give your dog something to chew on. Chew toys, dental sticks, marrow bones… Chewing is very relaxing for dogs. Plus, these special treats will help promote healthy teeth and gums. You can also mix things up by filling a KONG toy with peanut butter, popping it in the freezer and offering it to your pooch before leaving the house. Fun and yummy!
6. Provide your cat with ‘outside’ distractions. Cats love a good view, especially when it’s from elevated places like a cat tree or a cushion by a window. Many kitties will happily sit for hours observing life beyond the windowsill: from buzzing flies to their all-time favourite: birds! If, on the other hand, your cat could do with a little more exercise, you can get her to stay active with this Trixie Treat Ball.
7. Spend quality time with them every day. Getting your pet used to being alone is as important as spending time together when you’re back. Show them you care by dedicating a chunk of your day exclusively to them – like cosying up on the sofa or playing together.
What if my pet suffers from separation anxiety?
While most pets would prefer their owners to never leave their side, some can find it extremely difficult to cope with being on their own. This is known as separation anxiety and is more common in dogs.
If your pooch gets very distressed when you leave the house (whining, panting or destroying stuff), teach them to be alone for shorter periods of time until they start to feel more comfortable. Follow the tips above and (if possible), consider asking a friend or neighbour to check on your pet the first few days you are away. For extra support, use a natural calming product.
Wondering how long is too long to leave a cat or dog home alone? Then you may also be interested in this other article.