Cats and particularly dogs are both social animals. They will choose to spend the majority of their time in our company or the company of other furry friends when they can, and being alone can often be a worrying time for them.
As the number of working households in the UK rises*, the number of pets spending their weekdays home alone rises too; over 2 million dogs are being left alone for 5 hours or more on a weekday**. Some dogs seem to cope well, however others struggle and show distress, commonly known as separation anxiety. Separation anxiety could affect cats too if they are left alone for too long – there are many misconceptions that cats are independent and solitary creatures. However, even though cats can be kept alone for longer periods than dogs, they still require your companionship.
It is important to prevent these behaviours developing and there are many ways to help your cat/dog adjust and feel more relaxed when left on their own for part of the day. Here are some suggestions that might help:
One of the easiest ways to find out if your dog or cat is feeling distressed while you’re away is to set up a video/audio recording device (such as a camera, a phone or a tablet) and leave for 10-15 minutes so that you can observe their behaviour.
Start with a short period of time and slowly increase the time your cat/dog is left alone. The idea is to let them know alone time is for them to relax and feel comfortable.
Stair gates are a great tool to use instead of a closed door, they allow the dog to see, smell and hear outside the room.
A little background noise like leaving the radio on at a very low volume.
Give him/her Zylkene calming supplements to help them cope.
Do bear in mind that this could take time. If these techniques don’t seem to be working or you’re worried the problem is serious, you don’t have to solve the problem alone. Do seek professional advice from your veterinary practice or qualified animal behaviourist.