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How long to leave pets home alone for

4 minute read

No one likes leaving their pet alone for too long. But how long is too long and how do you deal with particularly nervous animals?  

 
  • Try to tire your pet out before you leave them, especially if they get worked up about you going
  • Toys and time release feeders can keep cats and dogs entertained while you’re away
  • Cats can seem independent and self-sufficient, but you still need to be careful about leaving them for long spells 

 

Nobody likes to think of their pet pining for them while they’re out. But with work and other commitments, leaving your dog or cat is often unavoidable. With parties and days out visiting the family, the festive season is usually a time when even the biggest animal lovers will be leaving their pets longer than normal. 

Some dogs and cats can become agitated and damage your home when left. Helping them remain calm – and slowly building up the amount of time they’re on their own – can help reduce disruptive behaviour and make you feel more confident about heading out. 

Find out more on how to keep a happy pet below:

Can dogs and cats be left alone all day?

A young dog shouldn’t be left alone in the house for a full working day. For most people a full working day can clock in at around ten hours by the time you’ve factored in the commute. Dogs left alone for such long periods can become anxious and destructive. 

Cats are typically more independent and, in most cases, will be happy to stay at home alone while you’re at work – provided they have food, water and toys. Not all felines are the same, however, and some cats may develop separation anxiety if left during the day.

Separation anxiety and cats

Cats enjoy socialising and can become lonely and agitated if left alone. Anxious cats can exhibit erratic behaviour, including :

  • Excessive grooming
  • Scratching and damaging furniture
  • Urination – especially on items that carry your scent, such as clothing
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Overfriendliness when you’re preparing to leave or returning

If your cat is exhibiting some or all of these behaviours, you may be able to alleviate their discomfort with a few simple actions.

Try to avoid rewarding clingy or excessive friendliness when returning home – don’t feed your cat straight away either. Access to toys like scratching posts will also help your feline friend stay entertained while you’re working. 

A common misconception is that getting another cat may help separation anxiety – this may make matters worse, as your current kitty will have to compete with another animal for your attention.

 

 

Separation anxiety in dogs

Dogs who are left alone for too long can also exhibit unwanted behaviours and become distressed. This anxiety can manifest in many ways, including :

  • Biting and chewing furniture
  • Soiling or urinating 
  • Barking and howling 
  • Pacing 

Ideally, the solution is to simply not leave your dog alone for long periods. Arrange a dog walker, work from home a few days a week, or pay for a professional sitter. 

If these aren’t an option, there are several tried and tested tactics for calming separation anxiety in your pup.

Don’t engage with the dog when you leave the house – saying goodbye or showing affection before heading out the door makes leaving the house seem like a big occasion, not a normal part of the day.

When you return home, try not to give your dog too much attention for 10-15 minutes. This may be tough, but will help your dog become accustomed to your comings and goings, making them less stressful.

Invest in food-based toys that contain your pup’s favourite snacks – or a timed dog puzzle – to condition your pet to associate you leaving the house with a treat. Remove these special toys when you arrive home, so they serve as a reward for while you’re out of the house.

Other ways of reducing separation anxiety

There are some small actions you can take to make your dog more comfortable:

  • Close the curtains while you’re out to avoid distractions that may unsettle your dog
  • Playing audiobooks can help dogs feel more at ease
  • Go for a long walk in the morning
 
Some dogs and cats can become agitated and damage your home when left. Helping them remain calm – and slowly building up the amount of time they’re on their own – can help reduce disruptive behaviour and make you feel more confident about heading out.

Leaving a puppy at home

Puppies require a lot more attention than adult dogs. They must relieve themselves frequently, often more than once an hour when aged under ten weeks.  

As a rule of thumb, puppies can be left alone for an hour for every month of their early life, a three month old puppy can be left for three hours for example.

It’s important to leave your puppy alone occasionally so they become used to entertaining themselves. Start with short trips out of the house – staying calm and not treating leaving the house as a big event – then returning without immediately giving your puppy attention.

Leaving a kitten at home

Kittens can be left alone for short periods when they are young. Kittens under four months should only be left alone for a few hours, while a cat over six months old can cope alone for around eight hours. Most adult cats will be comfortable alone for up to 12 hours a day. 

Make sure your cat has enough food, a clean litter tray, water and toys to occupy them while you’re out – cats are adventurous and may be destructive, or injure themselves, when bored.

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