Pets Home Alone: Do they Party or Pout?
When you leave your house and will be out for a few hours or more for work or other activities, what do you think your pets do? Do they party, or do they pout?
Your pet's reaction to being home alone can vary according to the type and temperament of the pet, as well as how you prepare them for the times they will be alone.
Today's post will share some of my thoughts on this subject, so grab a cup of tea, and enjoy the read....
Some pets don't take kindly to their owners leaving them alone and they communicate that frustration or boredom in various ways. This might be especially true after these last couple of "Covid years" when pets got used to having their humans home more often. Some pets don't mind being alone and sleeping the day away or creating entertainment for themselves. Other pets get curious, bored, or frustrated and get into things they shouldn't or will start "redecorating" - which the owners will see more as "undecorating" and destroying than beautifying the home.
Personally, I don't believe pets should be home alone for very long periods of time, especially single pets. If there is another cat or dog or bird for company, then a little longer is okay most of the time.
For dogs, I'd say no more than four hours alone max, but it could be less depending on the dog. Cats, since they have a litter box, at least have their bathroom needs met. Keep in mind that pets are dependent on humans for their well-being. They need food, attention, stimulation, exercise, etc... so I don't recommend that people leave their home early in the morning for work and not return until supper time, leaving their pets,especially dogs, without going out to the bathroom or for a walk.
Unless of course - you have a pet sitter / dog walker in the daily plan!
If I may pontificate for a little bit:
It's important for owners and pet sitters to take a moment to see things from a pet's perspective. What is the pet's understanding and experience of being home alone?
If you don't have a way to see how they are doing via video, you can tell how pets do while you were out by the evidence of their behavior when you return home. Do they look frantic? Do you hear the dog barking as you walk up to your door? Are they panting? Are things destroyed? Is there piddle on the floor? Are the food and water bowls tipped over? Are the plants dug out or tipped over? Is there a mountain of socks in a pile on the bedroom floor? If it is a parrot, is he/she squawking and carrying on as if distressed?
Long-term or frequent stress on a pet - (humans too) can eventually cause illness, so deal with it as soon as you can. Make changes as necessary to help your pet have a contented time when alone at home. Budget for pet sitting services.
In general, think about how can you make their time alone a more positive experience for them so that when you get home they will be content and your home is not "redecorated".
Here are some thoughts for you to consider and questions to ask yourself on this topic:
1. Analyze the situation. Are you leaving your dog alone too much, or for too long of a time so that they don't have an opportunity to go outside to piddle like they need to? Imagine how you've felt the times you've really had to go to the bathroom but couldn't. It is a horrible, stressful feeling, isn't it? If you can't get home to take the dog out within a reasonable amount of time, that is a perfect reason to hire a professional pet sitter. A pet sitter breaks up the monotony for the dog, gives them an opportunity to relieve themselves, and gives them some exercise so when they do come in they'll be more likely to take a nap rather than chew up your favorite slippers.
2. Is your pet bored? If so, leave a radio on (softly please - pets have stellar hearing) and be aware of what you leave on. Some pets can get stressed out by what they see on the TV, or if they have to listen to music that disturbs them like heavy metal or super loud music of any kind. Low volume, classical, is what I always found to be the most helpful. I used to work with a music therapist and classical is the way to go when calming nerves.
The sound of a radio or TV can make pets feel like there is a human around the house and can cover up outside noises that might frighten them. As a pet sitter, I would usually see a positive difference in a pet's demeanor when a home is prepared with the pet's needs in mind prior to the owner leaving.
3. Leave out special toys that they use only when you are not home. Hide some treats here and there so they can do some searching and hunting to occupy some time.
4. Give cats a good place or two to sit by a window so they have some entertainment watching what is going on outside. The same for dogs.
5. Put away dangerous things. They may not be dangerous for you, but for pets they are. Make sure there are no open bottles of chemicals or medications left on the counter that cats can get into. Make sure there are no knives or forks sticking up in the dish strainer that cats can lick and cut themselves. If you leave windows open, make sure the screens are secure so cats don't fall out of them, or dogs don't jump out of them or bark so loud as to disturb the neighbors. Make sure the house temp is okay.
6. An obvious way to find out how pets do when you're out is to have a video camera set up in your home. The benefit of having the ability to see what is going on with your pet is that you can have some peace of mind to see what they are doing and how they are doing, and if necessary, make adjustments to make their time home alone more peaceful.
7. If there is no camera present, how can we tell if their pet had a decent day or not? The first clue is to be aware of their disposition when you get home. The second clue is the condition of the home.
Are there pets that do not like being alone regardless of who is stopping in to care for them - whether it is a professional pet sitter, a neighbor, or Uncle Joe? There sure are. Some pets don't even like to be alone if there is another pet at home with them. For these pets, nothing beats the security of a nice warm human being to help them feel safe and calm. Another reason to enlist the frequent aid of a pet sitter.
Pet sitters are quick to pick up cues from pets' behaviors and can usually tell if a pet is having a difficult time being alone during the time their owners are away. Sitters usually know how to handle these situations. Some issues can be prevented if there is excellent communication between the owner and sitter prior to the trip, and even sometimes during the trip if the situation warrants it.
If a pet is rarely left alone and the owner hardly ever goes away, or if the pet is very bonded to the owner, a pet's anxiety could increase markedly. Single pet homes tend to have more problems with pets being alone because there is a greater likelihood that they will become bored, lonely, or anxious.
A bored, angry, pouting, or lonely pet will go to great lengths to keep themselves busy or come up with new ways to "redecorate" a home just to let the owner know of their displeasure being left alone! Birds can start feather picking if bored or anxious. Cats can get aggressive, and any pet can become ill or stressed out in such situations. A sitter and owner may decide to add an extra pet visit each day to help with a pet that tends to have more separation anxiety or loneliness problems than other pets.
* This is a super important point: Before leaving the house - owners are encouraged to take a quick minute and look at their home from their pet's perspective. Ask yourself if you were a bored pet, would you find your way into that slightly opened closet and pull things out? Would you sniff out the contents of the kitchen garbage can and unknowingly feast on poisons, sharp objects, strings, or plastic baggies?
As an example, a client of mine had a beautiful border collie and the woman went out to do some Christmas shopping and stayed out a few hours longer than she'd normally been gone. When she came home, the dog had gotten bored and curious and had eaten lots of things in the kitchen garbage, including some string and pointy plastic items. The dog ended up with major belly surgery and a long recovery. So, before leaving the house, take a quick scan for potential dangers.
It is heartbreaking for pet owners who love their furry and feathery friends deeply to realize that their accidental negligence caused injury to their pets while they are away. This is also a reality that pet sitters live every day because they are the ones in charge when the owners are away and they must make sure the house is pet safe so whether a pet decides to party OR pout, they are safe and prevented from getting into trouble. Of course, a pet sitter can't be expected to rearrange a client's home so that all areas of trouble are eliminated, but working together with clients a safe environment can be created.
As we all know, having a pet is like having a child that never grows up and it is always a challenge to provide them with enough stimulation and safety so they can thrive and live long and healthy lives. Never underestimate the curiosity and intelligence of pets and plan accordingly. It is crucial, as I already stated, that pet owners and pet sitters have a dialogue about pet safety and what strategies will be put in place to help a bored, anxious, angry, or lonely pet turn things around and have a happy experience.
Whether your pet parties or parts - give them plenty of hugs every day!