A Dalmatian sits behind a glass window, waiting for her people to come home.

For many pet lovers, leaving our pets behind as we head off to work for the day is difficult. But, like most, work and other obligations require that we go out in the world without our four-legged friends. This reality begs the question: how long can you leave your pet home alone?

Dogs, cats, and other pets can be left at home with some understanding of their needs. For each pet, this will vary based on species, breed, behavior and physical health, as well as other social factors. Because pets are much like kids, the pet parent guilt can come on strong. If you’ve been asking yourself, “How much time can I leave my pet home alone?” you’ve come to the right place!

Factors in Leaving a Pet Alone

Many of us know the daily grind – you get up in the morning, eat breakfast, shower, and get yourself ready for the day; the kids go to school, and you (and possibly your spouse) head off to work until 5pm or later. If this is the typical routine in your household, chances are your pet will be left alone during these hours. Is the 8-5+ too much? It depends on the pet.

  1. How long can your pet “hold it?” If you don’t have a dog door, then one of the first questions that come to mind is how much bladder control does your pet have? Adult dogs may be able to wait up to 6 hours without going outdoors to relieve themselves, but young pets, seniors, and those with medical conditions may not be able to wait it out. If you are gone longer, then you may want to install a dog door or hire someone to swing by and take your pet out.

  2. Do you have more than one pet? Pets who are frequently alone may need another pet as a companion. When a pet has another pet companion, they can help alleviate boredom and loneliness during the day and inspire more exercise and interaction since they can play together.

  3. Is your pet in good health? If your pet is under the weather or has an illness or condition they’re dealing with, they will need to be checked on more frequently.

  4. Does your pet have separation anxiety? If your pet howls, chews up things around the house, soils the carpet, or does any other destructive behaviors, chances are, they may have separation anxiety. This is a problem for many pet owners and can only be addressed through training and socialization. Please contact us for more information.

  5. How energetic is your pet? If your furry loved one is a true couch potato, they may be fine hanging out at home all day. Keep in mind that all pets need daily exercise, but a high energy breed will be bored without interaction throughout the day. A dog walker would be a perfect choice for them.

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Occupied While Alone

In an ideal world, your pet should not be alone more than 4-6 hours at a time. Unfortunately, most of us work 8 hours or more each day. It is beneficial if some member of the family is home sooner, such as a spouse or an older child, who can take responsibility for exercise and interaction.

Here are some tips to keep your pet happy while they are home alone.

  • Provide a variety of toys and interactive games for mental enrichment.
  • Consider bringing your pet to our daycare or play-days a few days during the week, or hire someone to walk your dog.
  • Never leave your pet outside or chained.
  • Always offer enough clean, fresh water to help them stay hydrated.
  • If your pet has separation anxiety, you can use crate training to help them adjust and feel confident on their own (never leave them in a crate for more than a few hours).
  • Consider adopting another pet if your pet is lonely. 

Remember to keep your daily routine consistent and take time (at least 20 minutes) for play or walks before you leave and when you return. This can minimize feelings of fear and stress. 

If you have any questions about entertaining a pet who is home alone, or need some help with separation anxiety, we are here for you. Please schedule an appointment so we can help!