If you have a pet then you’ll know that they just adore you being there and as huge numbers of people get set to return to work it’s going to be a strange and upsetting time for many of them when their companion suddenly disappears so this article is about how to prepare your pet for going back to work.
The last year and a half has been stressful on everyone, from having to work from home, to ongoing lock downs and the limited social interaction that has followed have all had a negative impact on our well being.
Your pet will have had a sudden change in circumstances too. Going from their human friend going out to work five days a week to being around all day has probably been a dream come true for a lot of them and they will have become used to that.
The routine that they previously had has been changed and, like most humans, routine is a good thing.
We have grown accustomed to our pets being there all the time now, and making the odd appearance on zoom calls! I’ve found that spending ten minutes or so playing with them every couple of hours (if they’re awake!) saves them from getting too bored and deciding to find out what you’re up to. giving them something that will keep them occupied during the rest of the time is a good idea too so a toy always works – and those with treats work really well – who doesn’t love a treat! Remember to mix it up a bit with times and types of toy. They will quickly get bored if given the same toy every day!
It doesn’t have to be an expensive toy either – an empty box can quite happily keep a cat occupied for ages, whether its sniffing around it, hiding in it, or just sitting on it, they’ll be happy.
The problem is going to be when you go back to leaving for work in the morning and not returning home again until later on in the day. I’ll split this part into the two main pet groups – cats and dogs – as they will react differently to you not being there.
Dogs – Getting Them Used to the New Normal
Dogs are probably going to be harder to get used to you not being there and that is what you need to get them used to – simply you not being there.
The first thing to do is to get back into the routine that you will have when you do eventually go back to work. Timing is important so make sure that you start feeding your dog around the same times that you will be when you go to work. Taking them for a walk around that time as well will get them into the habit (and you too!).
The next part is getting them used to you leaving, whether its for the day or for a couple of hours. So, where possible, get them fed and walked early as if you were going to work and then leave as if you were going to work. It may be that you end up going to grab a coffee or just a quick trip to the shops but just get them used to you leaving and they will become accustomed to it.
One thing which may help is to get a few more toys for them to play with before you go back to work. This is a classic distraction tactic for sure but if it works, don’t knock it! You don’t want them getting really bored and choosing to “play” with your new shoes or some other clothing! Have the new toys ready and when you leave, every couple of days or so, give them a toy – they will then associate you leaving with a new toy and should make it easier.
Another thing you want to get them used to is toilet training. As you have been home most of the time, you’ve spent time with them, been there and probably let them out whenever they’ve felt the need but this won’t be possible if you’re at work so try to get them accustomed to handling a few hours not having that option without any accidents. Similar to getting them used to you not being there, start off small and then increase the time gradually so they get used to it.
One way to help them (and you) is to try to make it home at lunchtime so that you are not leaving them the whole day, even initially!
As you can see getting a dog used to you not being around again is all about routine and getting them used to the new one. It will be tough initially for the dog and you so best to start early and gradually get them accustomed to it than stress them out by suddenly not being there for half the day. It will be easier all round.
Cats – Getting Them Used to the New Normal
Now we all joke about cats hating their owners and that they will be glad when we eventually go back to work as they’ll have the house to themselves again but they will need a bit of support getting there too. I know my cat, although sleeping most of the day, will sometimes start meowing at the door to see what I’m up to and sometimes just wants a bit of interaction.
Cats still like routine so try to get them into a similar routine to what you’ll be in when you are back to work. Mealtimes are important and they do like getting them at set times so slowly adjust the feeding times to your new routine and stick to them – set a timer on your phone or something but try to stick to the same times every day. That way they will already be in the new timings before you start back at work.
Cats do like a play thing, so try to increase the number of toys you have to occupy their time when you are not there.
If you feel that your cat is getting a bit stressed by any changes in your presence then there are things you can do to ease their anxiety from simple things such as leaving on a TV or radio to give some reassuring background noise to specific plug-in air diffusers which emit calming pheromones for your cat.
Ensuring their litter tray is nice and clean before you depart for the day is also a very good idea as this saves them from any anxiety and the possibility of them deciding its not clean enough and going somewhere else!
Nothing worse after a long day at work coming home and finding your cat has pee’d (or worse) somewhere else!
Is it time for a cat friend? If you think your cat is really lonely then it may be time to consider bringing another cat into the household for company. The important thing here is that you are committed to a new pet too and not just as a friend for your existing cat. There is always the possibility that they will not get on, even if they get on well to begin with!
Well, that’s just a quick round up of some suggestions for preparing both you and your pet for going back to work. It’s been one of the positives that has come out of the last eighteen months being able to spend more time with them but unless you are one of the lucky ones who are able to work from home going forward then a return to work was always coming! you can always try negotiating with your boss about flexi-work or even hybrid working, even initially to help you (and your pet) ease back into the routine. Anything to make the transition easier is to encouraged.
Do you have any recommendations for helping with any pets? I’ve only covered dogs and cats as they are the most popular but I’m sure there are loads of people out there with other pest who could do with some help? I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it interesting and informative. If you have any comments or indeed, any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
I have written another article about keeping your pets occupied during the day that you can find over HERE
Take care and good luck with your pet as you return to work.