Dogs and cat's are often left home alone while their owners are at work or out of the house, but how can you make sure they are comfortable while you're away? Our Louisa vets offer some tips about leaving your pet home alone.
What do our pets do when left home alone?
Dogs and cats have very different strategies for coping with alone time. Here are some common things our pets will do when they are left alone.
So, when you leave your dog alone what are they likely to get up to? The answer to that question is typically determined by the nature of your pooch. Some dogs who do well on their own will take a long nap as they wait for you to return. Unfortunately, fear and uneasiness can quickly be channeled into destructive behavior in dogs suffering from separation anxiety.
While seperation anxiety and sheer boredom can cause dogs of any breed to get into trouble when left alone there are a few dog breeds that tend to be more content with a bit of solitude. Some of the breeds that can do well alone include basset hounds, chihuahuas, pugs, french bulldogs, and boston terriers.
However, don't think this gives you free rein to leave these dogs home along as you please. Dogs are social animals. Just because a particular breed may be adaptable, that doesn't mean they enjoy being home alone for so long.
Do cats get sad when you leave? The short answer is, yes. When their needs for companionship are not met, cats can become depressed. They can also get separation anxiety.
Very old and very young cats tend to be more vulnerable and need more attention than middle-aged cats. As do cats with health concerns. So be sure to take extra care when leaving cats with health conditions, kittens, and senior cats alone.
How long can my pet be left alone?
For older dogs, 4-6 hours appears to be the most typical timeframe for alone time. Many people leave their pets alone for up to 8 hours while they go to work. A dog can adapt to staying home for 8 hours if they have sufficient space to move around and play.
If there is another person in the house, such as a married couple or their children, some households have an easier time. In any case, a dog should never be crated for more than a few hours at a time (disregarding sleepy time).
Kittens typically need to be fed 3 or 4 times a day until they are about 6 months old. Young cats also tend to get into mischief when left unsupervised. Kittens under 4 months old should not be left on their own for more than 4 hours at a time. Under some circumstances, it may be ok to leave your healthy, adult cat alone for 24-48 hours, however, if you’re regularly gone for 10 to 12 hours a day and don’t have much time to spend with your cat when you are home, your cat may need supplemental care.
How to keep your pet happy at home alone
If you must leave your pet home alone there are a number of ways you can help them be content with your absence. Our Louisa vets are here to offer some tips.
Burn off their extra energy
Preparing your pets to be left alone should start with exercise. It’s important they get their excess energy out. This will help them be calm and relaxed when home alone. It will also prevent your pet from tearing up your house while you’re gone. So, take your dog for a walk, spend some time dangling a toy in front of your cat, or let them run around the yard before you leave.
Get them used to being alone
Make sure you designate a space for your pets to stay in while they’re home alone, whether its a room, a properly sized crate or cage, or a cornered-off section of the house. Clear the room of any hazards and fill it with things your pets will need to be comfortable. This can include food, water, toys, a bed or other space that’s quiet and cozy.
Next, you’ll have to start training your pet to be alone. We suggest leaving your pets alone in small increments of time that you gradually increase to get them used to it. You can leave them in a certain part of the house or stay outside while they are inside. These are the hidden dangers you need to know about to keep your pets safe.
Make it a routine
Try to leave them on a set schedule every day so they can get used to a routine. Make sure you are calm and not overly emotional when you leave so they don’t get nervous or sad. It’s also a good idea to give them a treat right before you leave the house so soften the blow of your absence. This might even make them look forward to “goodbye” time.
You’ll want to make sure your dog is trained before you leave them alone. Get tips on how to train a puppy here.
Offer plenty of enrichment
Treats are a good way to keep your pets happy and distracted when they are home alone. Kong creates toys, for both cats and dogs, that hide treats (catnip for cats and snacks for dogs) inside the toy.
You can also get an electronic treat dispenser. These gadgets allow you to dispense treats remotely on your Smartphone or other devices or dispense treats according to a set schedule. Some of them have cameras so you can watch your pets while they have their snack to ensure that they are safe. The Furbo will toss treats out so your pets can have fun running after them.
Experts say that music can calm your pets and help them to feel safe and comfortable. So, you might want to consider leaving music on for them when they are home alone.
Get them a friend
You might want to consider getting your pet a companion if they’re too lonely while home alone. First, you’ll want to do some research and consult your vet about good companion breeds for your specific pet.
You can also get a toy companion. There are some products that you can buy that mimic a companion, some even have a built-in heartbeat that can help puppies and young dogs feel more comfortable and less alone.
There are lots of products you can buy if your pets are experiencing anxiety when they are home alone. You can ask your vet to recommend calming supplements for dogs, cats and birds. Aromatherapy can also help to soothe your pet. You can grab a spray and douse your pet’s favorite plushie with it or use an aromatherapy device.
Arrange a pet sitter
You might be tempted to let your pet “rough it” because it’s only a weekend trip or she seems just fine when you come home late from work. But for your peace of mind and your pet's well-being, you should hire a pet sitter.
If you regularly work 10-12 hour days or you’re headed out for a vacation, find a professional pet sitter who seems trustworthy and can provide references. It never hurts to have a back-up pet sitter just in case your regular pet sitter is booked up, too.
Dog daycares operate much like daycare for children. Simply drop off your pet when you are heading out and pick them up at a pre-arranged time. While you're gone the professionals at your pup's daycare will ensure that your dog is appropriately exercised and has plenty of time to socialize with other dogs. Your dog will be tired and contented when it's time to head home.
Be sure to do a short introduction day (meet & greet) before leaving your dog for a full day. This lets your dog know that you will be coming back to get them soon, and allows you to get a look at the facility and meet the staff ahead of time.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.