Pet owners know how important the companionship of our beloved animals can be, and the joy they bring when they greet us as we arrive home.
But what if you are now at home almost all the time? How are our furry friends coping with sharing “their territory” with us all day, every day?
My own cat who is getting on in years, does seem to enjoy being at home with me. She sleeps most of the day, however; at least 4 times she will come to check I am at my desk and demand I fill her food dish (which is always full).
The RSPCA and other animal charities have plenty of ideas for how to keep pets amused, including using empty toilet rolls to build a pyramid structure to hide treats in for your cat, which will also make your pet work for those tasty morsels. This is not a problem in my home, as my cat has plenty of toys to keep her occupied (usually in the middle of the night).
One article reports that their pets are growing clingy. Others are pouncing on exercise equipment, gliding across countertops, or hiding in corners and shooting their owners concerned stares.
Displacement behaviors, however, raise the question: Why would animals be stressed at all? Yeah, they’re living in a pandemic — but they don’t know it.
Lauren Finka, a cat behavior researcher at Nottingham Trent University in England states that it’s “really important that as owners we try to stick to ‘business as usual’ when it comes to the daily routines our pets are used to, and to ensure that they still have quiet, undisturbed places they can go throughout the day as when normal routine is disrupted, this in turn can cause anxiety because their sense of predictability and control may be challenged”.
Not all of our pets have problems and can adapt well. We mostly see that dogs are in their glory and cats are asking when we are going back to work (not my cat).
How should you begin preparing especially your dog for when you eventually go back to work? Start now with simple things. Sometimes leaving the crate open and just covering it with a blanket on the top is enough of a feeling like a den that the dog will go in there on their own.
Leave the house to take a walk without the dog and let the dog learn that being alone is OK and that you will return. Start your schedule like you would when you were working. So if before you were doing a mile walk with the dog at 6 a.m. and then leaving for work, take that mile walk at 6 a.m. and then give the dog a bone or toy that they can take to their bed to amuse themselves for a bit.
Cats, too, may have a difficult time with the change in schedule. Cats should also be given different toys or treats to help them adjust to you being gone for long periods of time.
I know that when I returned home from work my cat would ignore me for all of 30 seconds and then start running around the house with excitement. I think she is secretly glad that I am working from home.