Lonely pets: How to avoid separation anxiety
Keep em purring
Cats don’t simply curl up and sleep when you leave. They need stimulation for the period they will be left alone. If they have a friend or sibling they will create games, groom and comfort one another but if they are alone they will need more stimuli.
Leaving the TV or radio on can help, and while you work out their favourite channel, you can’t go far wrong with classical music.
There is a multitude of cat toys available that are also practical for your home, such as scratching posts to discourage furniture shredding and to keep their nails trimmed.
Catnip is another inoffensive distraction as the plant sewn into fabric toys can relax humans and have a 10-15 minute lasting pleasurable reaction in cats that will intermittently distract them from any feelings of loneliness.
It’s not just toy breeds that suffer from separation anxiety. All dogs dislike being left alone and unfortunately cannot tell whether it’s been ten minutes or ten hours: the anguish felt is very similar. But you can help ease the anxiety at least.
Background noise from the TV or radio can help them to feel less alone (different dogs prefer different styles of music; it’s worth trying out radio stations/channels).
There is even a dog TV channel designed to create happy and calm thoughts in dogs, showing idyllic scenes of fields, beaches, and other dogs. It is currently only available in the US, but you could play their YouTube channel on a screen they can see.
You can also train your dog to disassociate your absence with negativity by gradually lengthening the distance and time of your separation until they can be left alone for 20 minutes without showing their usual symptoms of sadness and stress.
Leave them with a ‘project’ such as a rubber toy filled with cheese and hidden treats in their safe zone and perhaps invest in a plug-in adaptor that emits anti-stress smells for your fretful dog.
Luckily, if you have other pets in the house, they alone can provide company and entertainment for your bird. Sometimes another bird of the same breed creates tension rather than contentment (unless they were bought in pairs or flocks).
Alternatively, cartoons or games channels left on the TV are the programmes of choice for your feathered friend. A fish tank can also deliver a source of calm and amusement for your single bird, provided they cannot reach into the water.
This lonely piggy
Guinea pigs have to be housed with siblings or friends and will be terribly lonely without other pigs to play with. They love to play hide and seek and will appreciate simple cardboard tunnels or paper bags (with air holes cut) that they can run through and nibble at.
Hanging various chunks of apple, carrot, orange or lettuce around their house can provide hours of entertainment.
Be sure to change their bedding before you leave: a fresh room will make them ‘squee’ and jump in twists with happiness, known as popcorning.
Another easy trick is to build a safe shelf in your guinea’s home that they can access via a ramp as they enjoy a different view and to feel less threatened on one level.