Just like we can feel lonely when we spend a lot of time on our own, so too can our pets. Find out the signs and symptoms of a lonely pet, and how you can help them overcome this feeling.

lonely dog

Centuries ago, in a time before domestication, dogs socialised in packs all day, and cats spent much of their time engaged in predatory activity. Today our pets are, relatively speaking, confined and doted on. Often, we are their main social interaction, source of entertainment, and companion – and when a large portion of our day is spent out of the house, our pets may become lonely. Some possible signs your pet may be lonely include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Vocalising
  • Defecating and urinating in inappropriate areas when they were previously housetrained
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting due to stress
  • Destructive tendencies
  • Aggressive and hyperactive tendencies

How to treat pet loneliness

While some animals can experience severe separation anxiety and may need professional help or medication prescribed by your Greencross vet, that is generally a last resort. There are wellbeing products such as Feliway, Adaptil and Thundershirts that can assist your pet particularly with anxiety. Here are some other approaches you can try to moderate your pet’s loneliness:

Exercise your pet: the best thing you can do for a pet that is going to spend the day alone is engage them in some morning exercise. What works for your pet will depend on their age, fitness and overall health. For most dogs a walk, some off leash running and a game of fetch is ideal. Whereas for cats, exercise might involve 15 – 20 minutes of interactive play. Find some toys that excite them and give them a bit of tender loving care before you head out the door.

Two is company: a possible solution to your pet’s loneliness is to adopt a second pet. Of course, this option won’t suit everyone and requires careful consideration. It’s important to think about the nature of your current pet, and choose a second pet that it will get along with. For cats, the younger they are, the more open they will be to newcomers, where dogs tend to be able to form bonds with both cats and other dogs. Get some tips on how to introduce a new puppy into the mix here: How do I introduce a new puppy to my other pets?

Environmental enrichment: animals need mental stimulation just as humans do. Try to make your pet’s environment fun and interesting to keep them occupied while you’re not around. For dogs, a Kong is a great treat dispenser that will keep them entertained for hours, while cats will enjoy interacting with their scratching post.

Doggie day-care: day-care is becoming more and more popular among dog-owners these days, and while it’s a good option for those who can afford it, not all of us can. Alternatives to doggy day-care include:

  • A pet sitter/friend popping over while you are out
  • A dog-walking service