Home alone 

Our pets love human company – that is why we easily form such strong bonds with our pets. So no wonder being left home alone during the day can be little fun for a cat or dog.

Imagine being left alone at home for the average 8 hour workday, this can be a dull old day for the average suburban cat or dog.

Confined in a house or backyard with no human interaction, our pets can spend hours in an environment where nothing much happens and they are usually on their own.

In order to cope with the lack of stimulation, dogs and cats may make their own fun. They may exhibitHome_Alone undesirable behaviors including barking, digging, destroying furniture, urinating in inappropriate spots, eating things they shouldn't, pulling the washing off the line or escaping over the fence.

It is often unavoidable that our pets are left alone but there are things we can do to reduce their anxiety and undesirable behavior from occurring, after all, dogs and cats need more that just food and water to survive and be happy.

There are a number of things owners can do to help alleviate problem behaviors that occur from the home alone syndrome and give their pets opportunities to have fun on their own. 

Pull on your joggers

If you have a dog, get your walking shoes on first thing in the morning and take a walk. Exercise is good for you and you will have a willing exercise partner. Guaranteed ready to go every morning like clockwork. Introduce some form of obedience training into the morning jaunt. Well trained pets are more likely to see you as the pack leader and are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems. Training activities during the walk can be as simple as asking your pet to sit and heel.

Cats love to play but a lot of cats need to be trained how to play with toys. Have a morning play session with your cat. You should be prepared to try a variety of toys. You will need to work out what toys work for your particular pet.

This burst of activity will help settle your pet for the day by burning off some excess energy and may help reduce any separation anxiety as you head off to work. After the excitement of the pre workday activities it is often time for a nap. (Not you – the pet!). 

Toys and treats

Toys can provide hours of entertainment for dogs and cats, particularly if they are well-designed and durable. All pets should have their own toys and should be taught from a young age to differentiate between their chew toys and things that don’t belong to them and must never be chewed!

Veterinary Clinics and pet stores are good places to find quality toys that are designed to stimulate and challenge animals. It has to appeal to the animal, as well as be safe and durable.

Tennis balls are a cheap way to amuse a dog but if half a chewed tennis ball ends up lodged inside the dog it will cost you a fair few dollars to get it out at the vets.

Many toys can be used in conjunction with treats. They are designed to have treats stuffed inside and function as an additional incentive to play with the toy.

This chewing activity is known to increase serotonin levels which can help in the control of anxiety. 

Pet friendly environments

Bigger is not necessarily better when creating the ideal yard for a pet. Big backyards are just as boring as little backyards.

So what makes one backyard or house more exciting than any other?

Toys, a sandpit to dig in, a water feature to play around in, a platform from which to view the world or a hole in the fence are all good distractions.

A view of the world for indoor cats, high-level walkways, scratching posts, catnip, paper bags, table tennis balls and boxes can keep cats busy. A fresh litter tray, one per cat, is very important and may be enough to eliminate ‘problem’ urination. 

Are two pets better than one?

Often yes, but if one pet has an existing behavioral problem, it’s better to try and solve that before you add another animal.

For example, dogs can encourage each other, getting sillier and sillier, and the problems escalate.

With a little bit of effort it is easy to make your pet’s day a bit more interesting and you may find that it is also more rewarding for you as well. 

Dr Alison Banfield – Sanford Veterinary Clinic  

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