You would think that someone like me, with a full-time job, and two kids, plus bills to pay and dinners to make, would have bigger things to worry about than whether my cat is bored. And yet, I find myself often thinking about Luna (a tabby) and wondering if I am depriving her of a full life by leaving her alone in the apartment all day when the rest of us are at school or at work.
My family scoffs. “She’s fine,” says my daughter, pointing out that Luna spends hours looking out the window at the traffic seven stories below. “She’s too dumb to know she has no life,” says my son, a true cynic at age 20.
But experts say my concern is not misplaced. I spoke with Paul Mann who is founder and CEO of Fetch! Pet care, a nationwide pet sitting service, who confirmed that both cats and dogs suffer from boredom issues, although dogs, with their more “social” brains, are particularly vulnerable. Here are his tips for keeping your pet happy even with long stretches of “alone time.”
- Just before you leave, exercise your pet. Take your dog on a brisk walk, or play a game of fetch. With a cat, get out the laser pointer for a quick chase through your home. By tiring out your pet, you set them up to rest while you are gone.
- Have someone stop by in the middle of the day. A professional dog walker is ideal, but even a neighbor who may enjoy interacting with your furry friend can be a valuable source of socialization and exercise.
- Leave out your dog or cat’s favorite toys. You could insert a treat inside a toy to provide a mental challenge. Dogs may also enjoy one of the puzzle game food dispensers on the market that encourage natural foraging behavior. For cats consider a scampering self-correcting mouse. (I like the look of the FroliCat Pounce Interactive Pet Toy.)
- Turn on Animal Planet, or use a web-connected device so your pet can hear or see you during the day.
- Consider finding furry friend for your pet. Many dogs and cats play well together. A common solution is to adopt a second pet as a companion for the first, but if that isn’t a viable solution, arrange playdates. Perhaps you have a friend or family member’s pet over one day, and alternate so the other person takes your pet on other days. Of course it takes time to see if your pet will react well to this. Do some test runs before leaving two animals home alone for long periods.
“Reversing a pet’s state of loneliness can have tremendous and immediate benefits for the animal and the household at large,” says Mann. That sounds right. And it will make me less anxious about Luna, which has got to be a good thing!
Clare McHugh is the Editor of Health.