As much as we would like to, we can’t take our pets with us every time we leave the house. Unfortunately, that means that your pup or cat might be hanging out at home for hours at a time as you travel from work to school to social events and, eventually, back home.
A lot of pet parents worry about their pets during this time. If you don’t have a fancy pet camera to observe your pet’s behavior, you probably won’t know what your pet is up to all day.
Fortunately, there are some ways you can tell if your pet is bored at home based on its behavior, as well as what you might find at home, when you return.
Telltale signs of pet boredom
Both cats and dogs require physical and mental stimulation to keep them active and entertained each day. These signs might show that they’re not getting enough stimulation—particularly when they are at home alone.
- Destruction: One of the most common boredom-related signs is noticeable right away: a messy, destroyed house courtesy of a pet just looking for some fun. Dogs and cats don’t act destructively out of spite, of course. They’re merely creating their own entertainment when nobody is around to provide it. Unfortunately, most pet parents don’t enjoy returning home to holes in the carpet or furniture, objects knocked off the counters or scratches embedded in the table legs.
- Excessive energy or rowdiness: Bored pets also tend to display hyperactive behavior the moment you get home. They might run or jump around, insisting you play, wanting to be let outside or vocalizing much more than usual at anything that passes by. This is particularly common for dogs that aren’t being exercised as much as they need to, and they’re probably desperate to burn off some steam.
- Attention-seeking behaviors: If your pet is bored, it may also appear much more clingy than usual and try to get your attention by acting out, invading your personal space or barking and whining. If you show signs of intending to leave the home, your pet may also begin showing signs of anxiety or try to prevent you from leaving.
One important thing to note about these behaviors is that many of them are shared with the signs of separation anxiety. If you notice these behaviors, it may be a good idea to rule anxiety out first with the help of your veterinarian before assuming the problem lies with boredom.
How to keep pets from being bored
If you notice that your pet is displaying signs of boredom, you’ll want to put a stop to it as soon as you can. Not only can a bored pet wreak destruction on your home and make your home life more challenging, but boredom can lead to cognitive decline and the development of anxiety disorders in cats and dogs. Your pets must be provided with stimulation each day for their health!
If your pet is left alone for a large portion of the day, start each day by giving it the stimulation it requires. Take your dog for a lengthy walk or run in the morning before you leave. This gives it time to burn off some steam, and it will probably sleep for a good chunk of the day while you’re gone!
You may even want to hire a pet sitter or daytime walker to give your pup some exercise throughout the day. Or, enroll your pup in doggy daycare so it can exercise and socialize while you’re at work!
For cats, create stimulating situations for your kitty to explore while it’s at home. Set up perches near windows so your cat can watch animals and passerby outside and install cat trees or cat shelves to allow your cat some freedom to jump and play throughout the house.
Both cats and dogs might also benefit from automated toys that hold their attention without a human counterpart necessary! Automated laser pointers could keep cats chasing and playing for hours. Automated fetch toys can lightly toss a ball for your dog to retrieve and incentivize problem-solving by requiring your dog to place the ball back in the holster for another throw.
Installing a high-tech pet camera can also provide you some peace of mind, allowing you to supervise your pets while you’re away and even talk to them or release a treat via your phone.
Of course, once you return home, you should still spend some quality, one-on-one time with your pet by playing games, going for walks and providing lots of snuggles. Teach your pet new tricks and play puzzle games with it in your time at home to keep its mind sharp.
By finding new ways to entertain your pet while you’re home and while you’re away, you’ll be sure to prevent your cat or dog from getting too bored and causing problems.