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Home Alone?

By Dan Hutton on February 7, 2012 in

New research has revealed that concern about leaving a pet home alone is one of the biggest reasons for not obtaining a pet. According to the research, 40% of people who would like to own a dog and 27% of would-be cat owners said the reason they did not have a pet was that it would be alone too much.

However, a pet that is left home alone is more likely to be snoozing the day away rather than missing its owner. Cats spend up to 16 hours a day sleeping, while dogs will spend up to 14 hours a day catching zeds. Concern about pets having some time home alone doesn’t need to be a reason for missing out on the many recognised benefits of pet ownership.

The research also showed that 92% of people leave their pet at home alone at least some of the time and, in contrast with what many might think, home alone dogs and cats are spending their time indoors. People seem to have got the message that cats are safer and happier when they are indoors, but this can also be true for dogs, including larger dogs.

As to the question of just what your pet gets up to when you are not home, it will depend on the individual pet and whether they are particularly active or anxious. Most pets are not stressed when they are home alone as it is a familiar environment, but it is important to provide your pet with opportunities to play if they wish.

In general, cats are quite happy to spend time on their own or with a feline friend. Offer access to safe toys and areas where your cat can watch the world go by. A tall climbing tree placed near a window is great for this. A scratching post is also important – it will protect your furniture and give your cat the chance to stretch.

If you own a dog, try to break up extended periods of ‘alone time’ by getting a family member, friend or pet sitter to drop in and spend some time with your dog, or better still, take it for a walk.

You could send your dog to doggy day care, a grooming session or playgroup, or you could find a doggy playmate in your area at www.dogtree.com.au.

Consider working from home sometimes. Even a half-day here and there can make a difference. You might even look after a friend’s pet in your home, then swap and leave your pet at their house on other occasions.

Avoid making a fuss of your pet when you arrive home. Just speak quietly until it is calm. Getting overly excited on your return will only make the pet more anxious when you leave.

Provide safe toys to play with and things to chew during the day – a rubber ‘Kong’ that is stuffed with wet food and then frozen is ideal as it takes time for the ice to melt.

Importantly, give your pet plenty of physical and mental exercise before you leave the house and it will be more likely to sleep. A ten-minute training session will tire your pet and is great quality time to spend together.

Of course, if you think your pet may have any problems with being left alone, such as separation anxiety or behavioural issues such as barking, please see your veterinarian as there is a range of treatments that can help your pet.