When faced with leaving their furry companions alone during the day, pet parents often suffer from separation anxiety -- not so much from their pets as from themselves and their own guilt over leaving their pets to fend for themselves in a lonely house. Here are four ways to help your cat stay occupied while you’re gone; after all, he can't nap all day long.
1. Building the Fun Zone
When your cat is ready to play, a special space that has been set up just for that purpose is important. Even if you don’t have an extra room to devote as a cat haven, a corner of a room or a window will suffice. Set up a nice cat tree and/or scratching post that is specially made for climbing and claw exercises. Perches that overlook the yard will also give her hours of free, albeit mundane, entertainment. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can build a sitting shelf that sits on the inside ledge of the windowsill using just a shelf, brackets and fabric, or you can buy one from a pet supply store. A bird feeder placed outside the window will provide hours of entertainment (and maybe a little frustration!).
There are also ways to make it so that your cat can go outside while staying inside, with an enclosure that juts from the open window, allowing your cat the best view of all. This is another project that you can either take on yourself, or buy pre-assembled. Start simple: You can begin by hanging toys from different spots so your cat has something to bat around, and place little jingly balls and furry mice on the floor for your cat to bat across the room and play a game of make-believe chase.
2. Get a "Buddy"
If your cat is an “only child,” you may want to consider adopting a feline brother or sister for her. Keep in mind that it can be challenging to integrate a new pet into the household, especially if your cat is older and is used to being the sole holder of the throne, but it is worth the effort to give your furry feline a companion she can grow to love (and groom). When two cats get together, playtime can really be productive and new games will be invented, even if you are not home to witness them.
3. Puzzles and Snacks
If your cat is into treats and snacks, a food puzzle toy can be a great way to keep him occupied. These typically ball shaped toys are made to be stuffed with small pieces of food (or treats), which are released only when your cat figures out the right way to undo the catch or turn it the right way to make the treat fall out. This is good for stimulating your cat’s brain and his muscles. Most pet supply shops sell different versions of treat puzzles, or you can look online.
4. Soothing Sounds
The poet William Congreve wrote that "music has charms to soothe a savage breast." We know this to be true for the savage man, and it is also true for our domesticated savage companions. If you find that your cat responds to certain styles of music, you can collect more of that style and set it up to play quietly on the home stereo while you are away. If in doubt, you can’t go wrong with classical. Stick with the soft pieces, piano and string rather than trumpets and drums. There is also a large choice of soothing meditation music that you can play for your cat. Just don’t be too surprised if you come home one day and find your cat in the lotus pose.
Sure, your cat is probably more than happy to spend her day alone. She needs her rest after a long night of resting, but enriching her environment with some extra toys, visual distraction, music or companions will probably end up being one of your greater ideas. If nothing else, it will ease your guilty conscience and make you a happier pet owner.