A golden lab stares out the window

Having a pet means fulfilling all of their needs –  a huge responsibility! Besides providing food and shelter, there’s grooming, training, along with trips to the veterinarian for wellness exams, vaccines, and parasite protection. Not to mention dealing with the occasional pet illness or injury.

And there’s a pet’s mental and emotional well being to consider. You are your pet’s world, and just knowing that you’re nearby comforts and calms them. But of course, it usually isn’t possible to have our pets by our sides at all times. This begs the question, how long is too long to leave a pet home alone?

What Do They Do All Day?

Every pet reacts differently to being left home alone. Some simply rest and nap while they await your return. Younger pets, or those prone to anxiety, might become destructive, chewing on furniture or personal items. Severe cases of separation anxiety may result in house soiling, eliminating outside the litter box, excessive vocalization (barking, howling, whining, or yowling), and even scratching or chewing on door and window frames in an attempt to escape.

Leaving a Pet Home Alone

How long you can leave your pet home alone depends on their species, personality, and any underlying health concerns that may be present. 

  • In general, dogs should be given a chance to go outside and relieve themselves every 4 to 6 hours. Puppies and dogs with any type of urinary incontinence will need to go out more often.
  • Most veterinarians agree that it’s safe to leave adult cats alone for up to 24 hours, provided they eat dry kibble and have extra available. Someone should come by to check on them before or at 24 hours.

Although it may be safe to leave pets home alone for certain extended periods of time, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Even your seemingly aloof cat requires time and attention from you to thrive, and keeping pets isolated for long periods of time can negatively affect their mental, emotional, and physical health.

Keeping Boredom at Bay

If you must leave your pet home alone all day, there are steps you can take to mitigate the negative impact of your absence and help to curb separation anxiety. 

  • Enlist the help of a dog walker, pet sitter, neighbor, or friend to stop by and walk and/or play with your pet and let them out during the day.
  • Social dogs can benefit from some time at a doggie daycare, even a day or two per week while you’re at work can make a big difference.
  • Crate-trained pets may feel more comfortable spending time in their crates while they are home alone.
  • Leave mentally stimulating toys, such as a peanut butter-filled Kong (try freezing it first!) or food puzzles for your pet to work on while you’re away.
  • Never leave a dog tied up while you’re gone. 
  • Make sure to exercise your pet both before and after you leave to release pent-up energy and help them relax.

Your Blue Valley Animal Hospital family is here to help! If you are concerned about your pet’s behavior, please don’t hesitate to contact us.