Having a pet is a two-way street. You know how much you love having them around and how empty the house would feel if they weren’t there. So, don’t forget, they feel that way too. This is particularly true of dogs and cats, but hamsters, mice, birds and other species all get used to their environment and their humans. While we tell people, “I’ve got a dog and a cat,” if they could talk, they would tell their friends, “Oh, it’s a quiet house, just me and the lady,” or “It’s a madhouse: there’s a whole family of them; a man, a woman, two boys and a girl. There is always something going on.”
That’s why it is important to think about how they are going to feel when you go away for a while. Perhaps they are used to being on their own while you are at work during the day, but they have a routine, and it gives them comfort. You are always up at a certain time, so they know they’re going to get something to eat and drink, plus a bit of chat. Even if they don’t know what you’re saying, they can tell by your tone of voice that you care about them. And the fact that you stroke or pat them doesn’t go unnoticed. They may actually enjoy the peace and quiet when you’re out, but social animals like cats and dogs like it when you come home, too, particularly if they are the only pets you have.
Here are five points to keep your pets happy while you’re away.
Get a house sitter
That means someone to actually live in your house for the duration. They will be your direct replacement, and although they might not have the same rapport with the animals that you have, they will provide the framework to make the days and nights seem quite normal. Feeding time, exercise routines, perhaps medication. The sound of humans in the house: footsteps, voices, general pottering around, maybe having the radio on in the background or the TV at certain times.
If you do get a housesitter, try to find a good one. Perhaps a friend or family member would like to do it, or a friend of a friend, someone who comes with a bit of a character reference. Alternatively, there are people who do this regularly because they have some flexibility and like to experience different areas. Importantly, though, if you’re getting a housesitter, they need to know they are pet-sitting too, so make sure they are comfortable with it and prepared to cover all the bases. If possible, get the sitter to arrive before you leave, so the pets can get used to them. Animals can be protective, so they need to know you have given this strange person permission to be there.
Use an electronic monitoring system too
There are systems available now where you can set up cameras in your house and watch what’s happening on your phone from wherever you are. Yes, it sounds a bit like surveillance and some people might not be happy to be observed, so if you do go down this route, make sure the sitter is comfortable with the idea too.
Get someone to pop in every day
If you have a neighbour or a friend who lives locally, maybe they can pop in several times a day to do the necessary. You can get them and the pets accustomed to each other before you go – if they aren’t already – and the feeding, exercise etc can be carried out as normal. The monitoring system could be a great addition to this, so you could just check in now and then when the pets are unsupervised.
Make the house safe for the pets
If pets are going to be left to their own devices, make sure they can’t get into rooms where you don’t want them. And in the areas you’re happy for them to be in, for their sake, make sure they can’t get into cupboards and drawers containing chemicals, valuables etc. Animals can be very inquisitive and very resourceful, so keep them – and your belongings – safe.
Don’t make a fuss when you say goodbye
If all you usually do is say, “See you later,” do that. If you get down and cuddle them and tell them how much you’re going to miss them, they won’t understand, but they will know you’re behaving abnormally. Don’t make such a performance that they suspect something is going on.
Finally, make sure whoever is looking after your pet has your veterinarian’s contact details. Just in case.