10 Ways to Keep Your Dog or Cat Happy When Home Alone

This post first published on Care2.com.

Watching bird feeders help keep cats entertained when home alone

It isn’t easy leaving our pets alone for hours, but there are things we can do to help them. Try these 10 ways to keep your dog or cat happy when home alone.


1. Break Up the Day with Exercise

Some dogs left home alone can suffer from cabin fever leading to stress and anxiety. According to experts at the Animal Behavior College, access to the backyard is no substitute for a nice long walk. These outings will benefit your dog physically while also providing mental stimulation.

If you work close to home, consider spending your lunchtime walking your dog. When that’s not possible, having a professional dog walker or trusted neighbor take your dog for a mid-day walk helps break up the day.

2. Leave a Treat-Dispensing Toy

Interactive toys that require dogs to work for their treats can help relieve boredom when they’re home alone.

Our favorite is the Classic Kong. We stuff the cavity in the middle with a combination of kibble and peanut butter and freeze it overnight to make it last longer.

The WholeDog Journal offers a helpful evaluation of treat-dispensing toys based on such traits as sturdiness, safety, entertainment value and affordability.

3. Turn on the TV or Radio

Many dog owners leave the TV or radio on to keep their dogs company when home alone. Veterinarian Jeff Werber, founder of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, said in a blog post that some dogs with separation anxiety may respond well to radio music or TV when trained to have a positive association to the sound.

Another entertainment option is DOGTV, which provides audio-visual therapy for dogs to help treat loneliness, anxiety and separation in dogs.

4. Keep Things Interesting

Dogs get bored with the same old toys so keep your dog interested by alternating toys every few days.

Our dogs have their favorites, and when we remove them for a few days they are so excited to get them back. I know they play with the toys because we find them in different places around the house.

5. Provide chew toys

There’s a wide variety of chew toys on the market, but not all are safe when your pet is home alone.

Veterinary experts at Drs. Foster and Smith recommend rubberized toys like Kong chews that are durable, safe and fun for dogs. Dogs also enjoy flavored synthetic Nylabones that are infused with flavors and recommended for preventing plaque and massaging gums while also helping to relieve boredom.

Experts at the Humane Society of the United States say that rawhide bones should not be given to dogs when home alone because they can pose a choking hazard. I totally agree, because I’ve had to help our dog when she got a piece of soft rawhide stuck in her throat.

Chewing on bones keep dogs happy when home alone


6. Design a Play Zone

Providing a cat with a special place for playing, climbing and scratching is important. Set up a cat tree or window perch that offers cats a bird’s eye view of the yard.

7. Provide Entertainment with a Bird Feeder

Place a bird feeder outside the window where you’ve installed a cat perch or strategically-placed cat tree. Make sure the window is secure and always remains closed to prevent the cat from escaping. Put reflectors on the outside of large glass windows without screens to prevent birds from flying into the glass.

Experts at Petfinder.com recommend placing the feeder at least five or six feet from the perch or cat tree.

8. Build a Catio

catio is an enclosed space that allows cats to experience the outdoors without the risk of being attacked or getting lost.

These range from do-it-yourself projects to pre-made modular pieces you can order online. The HSUS Animal Sheltering magazine offers helpful tips on building and installing a catio.

9. Provide Interactive Toys

These interactive toys can provide food-motivated cats with physical and mental stimulation. Veterinary experts caution pet owners to choose toys that are durable and easy to clean.

Also, since obesity is a real problem for household cats, be sure to stuff the toy with healthy low calorie treats.

10. Turn on Cat TV

There’s a wide selection of YouTube entertainment in the series “Videos for Cats to Watch”, and pet owners can also purchase DVDs that provide cats with their very own nature shows.  In comments under one YouTube video of squirrels and birds at a feeding station, pet owners commented that their cats were “obsessed” with watching the screen.

At Kitty City, a refuge for abused, disabled or abandoned cats in Forked River, NJ feline residents enjoy watching the actions of rats, mice and birds on their TV.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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