Have Fun - Is Your Pet Home Alone?
Like working parents who fret over their kids, pet owners, can be plagued with guilt. Just what does your dog do at home alone all day? Is he pining away for you? Does she long for another dog to play with? Is your cat lonely while you're at work?

Many of us can't stay home with our pets all day long, but that doesn't mean you can't have a happy dog or cat. As with children, quality can help make up for lack of quantity, according to animal behaviorist and CALLING ALL PETS host Patricia "Trisha" McConnell.

"What's really important is what happens before you leave the house and after you get home," says McConnell. In her case, McConnell's dogs get a lot of attention and exercise before she leaves for work in the morning and again when she gets home in the evening.

Dogs and cats need both physical and mental exercise to be happy and healthy. Spend some of the time that you're home teaching your pet some new tricks. Cats and dogs love learning silly tricks if they are reinforced with play or their favorite treats (Trisha's cat Sushi is learning to "high five" this week!). If you combine good physical exercise with mental stimulation, you'll be much likelier to have a well-behaved pet when you come home at night.

But how do you know when enough is enough? How can you be sure that your pet is getting enough exercise in the morning and at night? McConnell says a good rule of thumb is to ask what what the animal was bred to do. A working breed like a Labrador was bred to work all day in the cold and damp, so simply walking a Labrador around the block isn't enough. Owners of active breeds like hunting or herding dogs need take make sure the dog extends himself at least two or three times a day.

"When I come home, I prefer to put on my jeans and go on a long walk and play ball," says McConnell, who has three Border Collies and a Great Pyrenees. "It doesn't matter if it's cold, and it doesn't really matter if it's raining, they still need to get in a good run." People who'd rather relax when they get home might be better off with a more laid-back breed, like (believe it or not) a greyhound.

Cats also need a lot of play time, especially young ones. Remember, though, that cats can't separate play from predation, so be sure to use a fishing-pole type toy with a "mouse" on the end -- that gives them exercise while preventing them from treating you like their prey!

It's not necessary to buy elaborate cat jungle gyms to entertain animals when they're home alone, McConnell adds. "The most important thing owners can do is spend time with their pets when they are home."

As for spending time alone, animals need more sleep than humans anyway -- up to 12 hours for dogs and cats, McConnell says. They have natural energy cycles with high energy from early to mid-morning and again from mid-afternoon to late evening.

The lesson? These industrial-strength nappers may not miss us as much as we think they do. Just remember, lest you feel guilty about leaving them--you're going to work, while they're going to nap on the couch.

Article from: www.wpr.org