Unlike us, they can’t follow the news to try and get their heads around the ever-changing lockdown rules. It’s very confusing when you’ve enjoyed your parents' company for months on end, and now all of a sudden find yourself alone for hours at a time! This goes for older pets, but even more so for the new kittens and puppies that have found families during lockdown. They’ve done all their growing up under these exceptional circumstances, so for them life has never been any different.
It’s actually a misconception that cats, unlike dogs, can’t wait for us to go back to work outside the home (despite what the memes are saying!). They’re also very likely to experience separation anxiety. For both cats and dogs, the signs can vary from subtle changes to more vocal or destructive behaviours, as well as excessive clinginess, food refusal or toileting issues.
My cats will have me around for a while longer as I continue to work from home, but before the pandemic, I travelled regularly and especially Bard really struggled with this. I’m his person and even if I was away for just one night, he would vomit on the carpet and walk around the house looking for me. Whilst it’s very flattering to be that needed by another being, it’s not good for him of course. Needless to say he’s been a very contented cat for the last 14 months.
If you do have to leave them, however, here are some suggestions that could make things easier:
- Routine is one of the most important things that will help your pet feel safe and secure. Making sure they are fed, walked and have play at the same times each day, will add an element of predictability that reassures them all is well.
- Go slow. If you can gradually help your pet get used to you being away for longer periods of time, this will really benefit them. You could even start with being in another room for a while, and reward them with a treat if they stay calm and well-behaved during this time.
- Enrichment: provide activities that allow your pet to engage in natural behaviours. They don’t just need exercise, they also need to feel mentally stimulated. For dogs this can be chewing, fetching or sniffing things out, for cats it can be as simple as providing an additional cat tree to scratch and climb, and also anything that simulates hunting (especially if your cat is indoors). Both cats and dogs love to find food, and you can buy or make a variety of puzzle feeders. Always check they are safe to use unsupervised if you leave them out whilst you’re at work.
If you’ve tried several strategies and your pet is still exhibiting worrying behaviour, get them checked over for any underlying health issues. If needed, your vet can refer you to a pet behaviour specialist for further advice.
There are some brilliant ideas on Youtube to create your own pet entertainment, we love this cat scratcher made out of a pizza box!
We liked it so much that we made our own version from an Aardvark box. If you decide to try this, keep a few things in mind:
- You will need more cardboard than you think.
- Box cutters are very sharp!
- Your cat will ‘help’ for about 2 minutes, then wander off and return two hours later to claim the finished product.
A great way to use an Aardvark box to entertain your dogs, is to hide some kibbles in amongst some scrunched up paper for a treasure hunt, as shown here by the DogsTrust.
We’d love to see some more creative uses of Aardvark packaging, so get your #craftvark on and tag us on Instagram @aardvark.store to share yours!