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As the classic saying goes – moderation is key – so if you’re living alone and work a 50 hour week, I’d probably say it’s not the best idea for you at this time.


However, if you work a normal amount and can still provide your pet with the mental stimulation, social interaction and physical exercise they need when you’re at home or at work (and willing to spend a bit of extra cash) – my vote is yes – go for it.


SO LET’S GET DOWN TO THE BASICS
 

Dogs and cats are sociable creatures and do yearn for human affection. If you own more than one pet (and were raised with a sibling at home), then even you know that sibling rivalry is all too real and that they won’t be laughing at each other’s jokes 24 / 7 when you’re busy bringing home the bacon. 


So sadly a house with eight, twelve or sixteen paws doesn’t always equate to happiness when you’re away. You’ll definetely still need to provide them with that homo sapien side of admiration, affection and interaction.


Naturally, adopting another pet as a friend to your already adopted pet could seriously backfire too, since our pets absolutely do tend to like some pets more than others (they’re total rebels like that), and we’d never want to force such stress onto our fur-children.


I must add though, if you’re that proud pet-parent to more than one pet and your fur-babies do indeed get along stupendously – there’s no denying that they’ll absolutely be less lonely once you leave in the mornings. 


Just evaluate your situation at home wisely, before making any drastic decisions.

 

HOW LONG CAN I LEAVE MY PET ALONE?


That truly depends on your pet’s ability to tolerate / thrive in social isolation.

 
If your pet has a full, interesting life, is walked often (dogs), gets to hunt now and again (cats), is played with and provided with more than enough stimulating toys – they can cope comfortably with 8 hours of alone time.

 
But if your pet’s entire life revolves around you and they don’t have suitable toys, are stuck in an environment they consider to be ultra-boring or watch you solely focus on paperwork in the evenings – let me tell you – they’ll definitely feel the separation from you more intensely.

 
It’s also not a terrible idea to have someone you can call to feed and play with your pets if your work schedule suddenly changes last minute. So start taking some freshly baked rusks over to those trustworthy neighbours nè.


SIGNS OF UNHAPPY PETS THAT AREN’T COPING WITH BEING LEFT ALONE

FOR DOGS 


Pacing, spinning around, howling or incessant barking. It doesn’t even have to be that pronounced. Dogs can also tremble, have toilet accidents when left alone, lick or chew themselves or drool.  Other dogs get angry and will rip things up in an expression of their rage – incredible hulk style.

 
FOR CATS


Excessive meowing, not using the litter box but rather going on your bed or clothes (because that truly is the ultimate revenge of course), excessive self-grooming, eating too fast or not eating at all when you aren’t around.


NOTE – attention time means much more to our pets than extra treats. Many of us fall into the trap of excessive treating because we feel guilty about being out all day.


WHAT ARE THE BEST BREEDS FOR A WORKING SITUATION?


Certain DOGS BREEDS and CAT BREEDS are generally more laid back, standoffish, less needy and/or lower maintenance than others and tend to spend a lot of the day sleeping or doing their own thang. 


NOTE – any puppy under the age of 4 months could wreak havoc if left alone for more than 30 minutes (give or take). Because just like us humans, naps become more appealing with age.
 


BEAT THE SYSTEM OF LONELINESS


FOR PUPPIES & KITTENS


As a puppy / kitten owner, teach your youngster to be ok when alone. Provide them with loads special toys to play with while you sneak into a different room in the house.

 
Once they are used to you being the phantom of the opera, you can then give them said toys, and leave for short periods of time.

 
Basically by doing this, they’ll learn that being alone isn’t something to fear. 


FOR ADULT DOGS


Can you teach an older dog new tricks? Oh but of course. In a nutshell  (severe summary ahead) –

 

  • As with any training – persistence is key. It’s important to work gradually and consistently.
     
  • Give them their dog toy filled with treats / peanut butter (remember sugar / xylitol-free) to keep them busy.
     
  • Start with giving it in your presence. After 2 weeks you can leaving the room for a minute. And then gradually extending the time until you can leave them alone for longer.
     
  • When they are ok with the toy for 20 minutes, you can think about leaving the house and them.


For a more in-depth education and read, do look at these magnificent tips in animal guru Karin Pienaar’s ARTICLE.


7 TIPS TO KEEP BOTH CANINES AND FELINES OCCUPIED DURING THE DAY

 

  1. MORNINGS


The goal is to remove excess energy that hopefully results in a gloriously long snooze as you leave for work. 

FOR DOGS

Get up 30 minutes earlier and take them for a refreshing walk. Be it in the garden or a safe route you trust – it’s great for bonding and relieves stress too! 

FOR CATS

Bust out those FEATHER WANDS and entertain your cat whilst you drink your morning coffee, eat your energizing cereal or brush your teeth, I mean, you only need one hand and zero biceps to get the feather-magic going. 

 

  1. INSTALL A PET DOOR


Independence at its best! These trusted PET DOORS help to prevent cabin fever and oopsies from happening in the house.

 
If you’re in the market for a sensational door, why not invest in the SUREFLAP PET DOORS. These doors of splendour keep unwanted pets out, yet allow your pets to freely move in and out of your home.


If you’re worried about thunderclouds rolling in whilst you’re stuck behind your desk, the CONNECT DOOR allows you to lock it from anywhere at any time. However, the best part about this stunning device is that it actually notifies you that your pet has entered the building (so accidentally locking them out isn’t an issue here). You’ve gotta love the technological era we live in!

 

However something technology cannot do, is train your pets to use these mini doors. It’s not rocket science, but will need to be done (having treats on standby is a stellar idea). HERE are some tips on training your pets to use that door to freedom and potentially Narnia (I mean never say never right).

 

  1. DISTRACTION SATISFACTION


FOR DOGS

 

Stuffing dog toys with peanut butter (yes sugar / xylitol-free please) or half wet / half dry food is always a great way to distract any member of the canine community. Popular toys for stuffing include the KONG, BIONIC STICK and/or any other durable dog toys with hollow cavities.


Here are a couple of RECIPES for stuffing from the Kong website if you’re feeling adventurous.

 
Remember not to stuff the Kong (or other toys) too tightly in the beginning. It needs to be easy enough for your dog to actually learn how to get it it out of course, otherwise it’s just demotivating and not fun at all. Bleh.


Other great toys for chewing sans the stuffing cavity include the CRUNCHCORE, HURLEY, SPIKEY BALLS and DURABLE STICK.


Why not spruce up the fun with a mini scavenger hunt. Simply scatter your dog’s entire breakfast around the house, and let them sniff it out. Oh my goodness – doesn’t that just sound exhilarating!


If you have more than one dog, you can feed half of their breakfast in their bowls and the other half scattered. Just remember to monitor them, because you might just have a competitive eater on your hands. If one is losing and/or gaining weight, just adjust their weekend / evening meals to restore the balance. 


FOR CATS


Put your cat’s breakfast in either a SLIMCAT FEEDER, FOOD TREE or a TREAT SPINNER.  These put their brains to work and dispense dry food as your cat taps and knocks it – meaning breakfast time is a dash longer, and a dash longer means time spent occupied.

 
Cat SCRATCHERS / PODS and FURNITURE are great options (especially when sprayed with a dash of CATNIP) to keep them content for an hour, two or three.

 
And then brace yourself, these toys are incredible and absolutely stupendous for when you’re not there. The FEATHER HIDER, the LASER TOY, the CHEESE CHASER and the CATNIP CHASER are honourable and very worthy mentions. So do check these out.


FOR BOTH PETS


If loadshedding isn’t on your area’s schedule, leave the TV / radio on, gently playing animal planet or calming classical music for them to enjoy. Each to his own of course, some pets are indifferent to the soothing sounds of Mozart. Just throwing it out there.
 

  1. DOG WALKERS / DAY CARE


If you can afford these services, then by all means use them. It’s a fabulous option for when you’re filing papers at the office to know that your dogs are being provided with exercise, mental stimulation and human interaction within a safe environment. Have a look on DOGGYDO for recommended daycare/walking services.


NOTE – if your dog is NOT a social butterfly, they could find the whole experience stressful. But even introverts deserve a day in the sun, perhaps your neighbour would be willing to pop over for a playdate or to take them for a short stroll. 

 

  1. TAKE YOUR PETS TO WORK


Some offices have a pet-friendly policy, and if your work allows it (and your pet isn’t tooooooo distracting), you can definitely consider taking them to work once a week / month or so. Remember to pack your pet’s favourite toys, treats, bowls (for water and food), bed and a lead.

 

  1. TRY TO STICK TO A SCHEDULE


Routines can be comforting, try to feed, walk, play and talk to them at the same (individual) times during each day. Being organized is not the worst path to follow. It helps to create peace of mind for both parties.

 

  1. HOME


I’M HOME! Now you can provide them with serious TLC (in a cool, calm and collected way). Keep greetings low key, but ignoring them is just cruel. 


Bear in mind if you announce yourself at the door, hire an orchestra and bust out in song, they’ll very quickly realize the difference between your presence and your absence (which defeats the purpose naturally).


Now that you’re home though, get those home bodies moving and legs stretched with either a walk, game of fetch, wands, tickles and what not to release pent up energy. BOOM and Bob’s your uncle.
 
CONCLUSION


Being a pet-parent is the MOST rewarding experience – but like any parenting-role, we take a vow to be selfless and so we ought to be.


And then of course on a side note – bored pets are naughty pets, so by making sure they are entertained will probably save you from replacing your furniture on a weekly basis too. So keeping them happy is an absolute win-win situation!
 

Comine du Toit
Animal lover and cat fanatic, Comine du Toit is a Freelance Copywriter at ePETstore in South Africa. She is a mom to a very energetic Sphynx, and the godmother to a clowder of cats, a kennel of dogs as well as a flock of geese. She's a firm believer that pets are family.
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