As much of the country has shifted to working from home due to the current situation, we’re all experiencing versions of a “new normal.” Kitchen tables are doubling as desks, fleece pajamas have replaced business casual, and you now have four legged “co-workers” who don't understand why you’re home all the time! With dogs video-bombing online Zoom meetings and cats taking over keyboards it can take time for you and your furry friend to adjust to this new reality. Here are some tips on how you can stay as productive as possible in your new environment while enjoying the perks of having your pet around.
Get Into A Routine
One of the biggest challenges people are facing is a disrupted routine. We’re creatures of habit and let’s face it; most of us usually operate on auto pilot Monday through Friday. It’s important to recreate a daily rhythm to help keep you in the right mindset. Plus pets also do better when they have an anticipated routine. Why not replace your morning commute with a brisk walk with your dog? In addition to logging steps on your FitBit, your pup should be sufficiently tired out when you get back to allow you to get your work day started.
If you’d normally take a 20 minute coffee break at 3PM; why not use this as playtime with your furry friend? Remember, dogs are creatures of habit, too, so it’s important to keep their daily routine as structured as possible. If they’re used to getting daily midday walks it’s important to keep these going. Sticking with their regular routine as much as possible will mean less disruption and confusion for them when you do go back to working from your office. Bottom line: getting into a routine can be beneficial to you all!
Don’t Forget About Kitty!
Dogs aren’t the only four legged family members wondering what’s going on. As we all know, cats are very independent creatures and probably enjoy having the place to themselves when you go to the office. Now that you’re home all the time, you’ve surely interfered with their seven daily naps or whatever other important “business” they tend to when you’re not around. They may associate your presence with having your undivided attention. An easy solution to help kitty adapt? Make sure your feline friend has plenty to do. Keep a basket of toys on hand so that you can easily toss them one when they're getting rowdy.
Since cats are unpredictable creatures and you never know how they’re going to react, your best bet is to try to keep your response low-key so that you’re not reinforcing the behavior. For cats that may not want constant interaction and miss their alone time, I would recommend setting up a quiet, cozy spot as a kitty retreat. Remember, this is an adjustment for all of you!
Keep Your “Fur-Workers” Busy
While your pets might think your entire purpose of being home is to play with them, we know that unfortunately that’s not the case. When you can’t give them one-on-one attention, make sure you have things to keep them occupied. Give them “projects”. Hide treats around the house or feed them meals in a puzzle feeder. Right before you hop on your conference call, give your dog a long lasting treat that will keep him occupied a quiet. A frozen, peanut butter filled Kong is great for this!
Have special toys around to keep them entertained. You don’t have to go crazy with buying a bunch of things either! If you’re like me and have relied heavily on “retail therapy” to help get you though this, you probably have plenty of Amazon boxes laying around. I’m always amazed at how much enjoyment cats can get out of boxes… hours of entertainment!
If you don’t typically work from home, it’s important to think about where you will be “setting up shop”. This is a good way to set boundaries and manage your pet’s expectations. It also helps to give your dog an independent space. Whether it’s their crate or a separate part of the house, set them up in an area where they can snooze, play and relax while you’re hard at work. Creating a clear divide between your workspace and your dog’s play area will go a long way in ensuring your productivity and keeping your pup in a routine.
It might be a bit trickier with cats so I’ve found it helpful to strategically set up cozy nooks and comfy beds for my kitty in my workspace area so that she can be close to me and content, but won’t be tempted to sleep on my desk. Something else I do and highly recommend is playing frequency based music to help calm and relax pets. I ask Alexa to play soothing music for pets, but I’ve also heard wonderful things about Wholetones for Pets. Soothing music will relax your fur baby and keep you sane while working!
Embrace The Positives
When you’re up against a stressful deadline or dealing with an annoying co-worker, taking 30 seconds to scratch your kitty’s chin can do wonders for your mood (and blood pressure!) While taking short breaks to to give belly rubs won’t help you meet that looming deadline, they will help ease any anxiety. Pets are are natural stress reducers! Being in a happier mood = less stressed out and can boost your productivity. Having four-legged friends around can also help combat any feelings of loneliness or isolation that can come from working solo at home.
It’s easy to get sucked into a project and sit at your desk for hours. This is not good for your mental health or your lower back! You need to get up every so often to stretch your legs and clear your mind. Pets provide the perfect “excuse” to take a break or remind you when it’s lunchtime.
Working from home also allows you to enforce house rules and positive behavior. By sticking to your routine, your pets will understand when it’s time to play and when it’s time to work. Having you at home can also make your furry friend feel more at ease and help deter any bad habits that might be brought on by separation anxiety.
While minor distractions are likely, working from home with a pet is absolutely possible and in my opinion can make your work experience even better!
As I sit at my desk typing this, my feline “office assistant,” Scout, has assumed her usual spot - curled up to the left of my laptop. I like to think it’s because she likes to keep me company while I work, but in reality it’s probably because she enjoys the radiant heat of my desk lamp which she is directly under.
Cats are definitely perplexing creatures, there’s no doubt about it. They are also quite possibly the most misunderstood pets. At the risk of being called a “crazy cat lady,” I could probably write a book on the subject. That said, I’ll try my best to dispel all those misconceived notions about our feline friends in this blog post.
One common misunderstanding is that cats are solitary creatures. Untrue! Maybe I should clarify: domesticated cats are very capable of having best friends be it a human, another cat, dog, or other animal. In fact, not only can cats come to rely on the companionship of humans, some have been known to develop separation anxiety if their owner is gone for a long period of time.
Full disclosure; cats prefer to be the only feline in a home. That’s not to say they can’t be social and form relationships with other cats but they just don’t feel the “need” to. Cats are quirky creatures. They don’t like sharing or waiting for anything. In order to keep the peace in multi-cat households I recommend having more than one litter box, multiple feeding areas, many cozy sleeping spots, etc. Minimizing the need to feel they must compete for resources can help curtail any drama!
The other challenge is the long-standing debate over cats and dogs. You cannot compare cats with dogs. Period. It makes about as much sense as comparing a dolphin to a starfish. Hands down there are more “dog people” in the world, but I chalk this up to a stellar public relations campaign. I’m not knocking dogs -- I love dogs! -- but I don’t think it’s fair to compare. Domestic dogs do tend to need (and want) constant social interaction. They have no issue with inserting themselves in whatever activity is going on (invited or not). Cats are just more particular about what activities they engage in. When you think of pets performing tricks cats aren’t the first thing to mind, but guess what? Cats can be trained! I taught one of my cats to play fetch. No joke! I’d toss a hair tie across the room and he would retrieve it (sometimes catching it mid air) and bring it back to me. Granted this game would only last a few minutes before he’d lose interest, but I digress.
I’ve heard people describe cats as “aloof.” To that I say they’re simply just discerning of people they’ve just met. Nothing wrong with that, I am, too! Anyone who thinks cats are standoffish has obviously never come home from a hard day to have a kitty cat greet them at the door and jump into their lap. Purrs are great therapy -- I speak from experience. I will say that kittens are much more interested in shiny, bouncing objects than snuggling and cuddling, but once a cat gets older and your connection with them grows you’d be hard pressed to fall asleep at night without a furry body slumped over your legs (or on your head as in my case).
Another misnomer? All cats hate water. While I’m not recommending you spontaneously give your cat a bubble bath, they don’t all hate water. Granted they’re less “waterproof” than dogs because of their perpetual grooming which help keep their coats oil-free (which means they get cold more easily if they get wet), but some cats are downright intrigued by water. A favorite pastime of my office assistant is playing with the running faucet in my bathroom or dipping her tail into my tub full of water.
Most people don’t realize that cats have very sophisticated body language and interpreting this language is the key to understanding their moods. Dogs are easy. Unlike that famous painting would lead you to believe, dogs would be horrible poker players. I think it is physically impossible for them to hide their emotions. Cats, on the other hand, need to be understood. Learning the distinction between meows can let you know if your furry friend is asking for dinner or crying in pain. While purring is usually the sign of a happy cat; it can also be a comfort seeking mechanism. Growling and hissing are obvious warning signs to stay away while high pitching “chatting” implies affection.
All this being said no signal is guaranteed so your best bet when interacting with your feline friend is to exercise caution. While an exposed belly is the ultimate indication of trust, it is by no means an invitation for a belly rub. Many people have fallen pray to the “Venus Cat Trap!” Cats can say a lot with their tails as well. Flicking or twitching tails are a warning sign. The faster the twitch, the less happy (or over-stimulated) the kitty. A quivering tail, on the other hand, is often a signal of cheerful excitement. Context is everything when decoding your kitty’s body language.
Cats can be wacky and easy to misread. So the next time you come home to your kitty’s nonchalant glance from the couch or a lazy yawn before going back to sleep, in their own way they're letting you know they're happy you’re home!
I can’t think of too many things that are better for the soul (or more fun) than a delightfully fuzzy puppy playing at your feet. With so many families at home, people are fostering and adopting canine companions more than ever! For those of you entertaining puppyhood (and for those of you in the throes of it!), here are some tips to help you navigate the experience, from “puppy proofing” your house to crate training.
Shopping for the Essentials
You’re going to want to make sure that you have all the necessities before bringing your new friend home. The following things should be on your shopping list.
While we wish it could all be fun and games, there are some administrative tasks that you will need to take care of pretty early on. Once you’ve decided on a name, get an ID tag printed with your pup’s name and your contact information. You should get your puppy to your veterinarian within 48 hours of bringing him home. Depending on your pup’s age this visit might only be for a physical exam and weigh in, or they might get their first round of vaccines. It’s also a good idea to know the location of the nearest 24 hour emergency clinic. You’re also going to want to find other professionals such as a pet sitter, groomer, etc. I always find it’s useful to ask for recommendations, and make sure to get references!
Keeping Your Space Safe
Puppies are unbelievably inquisitive and will want to check out and investigate everything. Much like toddlers, they don’t know what is off limits or unsafe. Remember what I said about chewing? If a puppy can put something in their mouth, they will. As strange as this sounds, walk around your home and try to look at it from your puppy’s point of view. Keep potentially toxic items like cleaning supplies, medicine, etc. stored out of reach or in a locked cabinet. Keep your shoes in a closet (unless you want your pup treating your Louboutin as their new favorite chew toy!) Garbage cans should have lids, electrical cords should be out of reach, fragile knick-knacks should be put on higher shelves...you get the picture. This is where the baby gates can help tremendously if you can’t (or don’t want to) puppy proof your entire home. When looking for hazards, don’t forget the backyard. Be on the lookout for toxic plants, holes in your gate, or anything else that could cause trouble.
Teaching & Training
There’s no reason not to start teaching your pup good behavior from day one! Let your new friend know the house rules right away and make sure your family is all on the same page so that the training stays consistent. The biggest hurdle is probably potty training and the best way to tackle this is to establish a timeline and stick to it. You’re also going to want to let your pup know where you expect him to do his business (crates are very useful here!). Start each day off with the same routine: wake up, get your puppy out of the crate and outside to go potty. It’s not bad idea to keep the crate in (or near) your bedroom so that you can hear any whimpering that might indicate he needs to go. Stick to routine as much as possible; always go out the same door and to the same area for your pup to go to the bathroom. Some people find it helpful to put them on a leash even if going into a fenced in yard so that they can react immediately and reward accordingly.
Try to keep meals scheduled at the same time each day. This will help regulate their potty time. Take your puppy outside after a meal; it is suggested not to wait more than 30 minutes. The younger the pup, the sooner they will need to be taken out. Water intake should be treated almost like a meal, too. They should be taken out soon afterwards and not given too much water right before bedtime. Remember, indoor accidents will happen and when they do don’t punish your pup. If you catch them in the act, get their attention and say “no” or make some other noise to make them stop. Pick them up gently, take them outside, and make sure to praise them when they finish!
It’s best to leave your puppy in his crate when you are leaving home for many hours. Unsure about how many hours your pup can hold it? There is something called the “month-plus-one” rule. Take your puppy’s age (in months) and add one; this will give you a rough estimate of the number of hours your puppy should be able to go between potty breaks. The last thing you should do before going to bed is take your pup out for a final bathroom break of the day. In addition to monitoring food and water intake before bedtime, puppies are usually able to hold their bladder for a longer period of time when they are sleeping and not active.
Positive reinforcement-based training is a great way to encourage good behavior even in very young dogs. If you find that you’re struggling or just need a little help, you can sign up your puppy for a puppy “kindergarten” training class to help both your pup with training concepts. These classes are also excellent for socializing!
These basics should get you and your pup off and running to a wonderful life full of fun, love, tricks, and slobbery kisses. Enjoy!