How to Prepare Pets for Your Return to Work

If you're planning a return to work after some time at home — or you're beginning a new job for the first time — your pet will need to adapt to this new routine. This change might mean less activity and attention during the day for your pet, along with the absence of your comforting presence. However, pets can adapt to a new lifestyle, and you can help ensure their lives are still just as happy and fulfilling. 

What will my pet do while I'm at work all day?

The same thing they did when you were home: sleep most of the time. But don’t worry. Pets don’t need you to entertain them 24 hours a day. Most pets have family members who go to jobs and school, and they’re just fine. 

However, if you’d like to make sure your pet doesn't get bored during the day, here are some ideas:

  • Before you go to work, tire pets out with a jog or a riveting game of fetch or catch-the-string. That way, they’ll be more likely to snooze the day away.
  • Hire a dog walker to stop by and take your pup for an excursion while you’re gone.
  • Hire someone to take your cat for a ride in a stroller.
  • Leave a Kong (for a dog) or a puzzle feeder (for a cat) or any other toy you deem safe for your particular pet. You want them to use their mental muscles as well as their physical ones.

The most important thing, though, is that you make the most of the time you do spend together. After all, it’s not entertainment that your pet truly wants — it’s you!

Give Snickers a bright future

When you sponsor an animal like Snickers, or any of the animals here at Best Friends, you’re providing them with the love, care, and healing they need for a bright future.

What if my return to work gives my pet separation anxiety?

For some pets it might, especially if being alone is something they haven’t had to experience for a while. They might have forgotten that you’re going to come back. When you go out, they might think this is it — the most important person in the entire world (that’s you) has decided to move away and never return.

For some pets, that separation anxiety will just be worrying. For others, it can make them freak out completely. We all have different levels of “chill.” 

Here are some tips for dealing with a dog or cat who really gets upset when you leave:

  • Practice leaving briefly before you try a full day of work. Just go to the mailbox and come back. Next, walk down the block and come back. Then, make a quick run to the store. The idea is to get your pet familiar with the routine of you leaving and then returning to help build their trust that you will always come back.
  • To make your pet less worried about signs that you are leaving, pick up your keys, purse, wallet, etc. occasionally and then set them down again.
  • Don’t give huge goodbyes when you leave or huge hellos when you return. It might feel unnatural, but you want to make coming and going very ho-hum and boring.
  • Create a safe, comfortable place for your pet to hang out while you’re gone. For some, that might be a quiet room. For others, it might be a crate. Having a special space can be reassuring to some pets.
  • Play music, an audiobook, or the TV while you’re gone. Some dogs really like reggae or jazz, and some cats get into nature shows.
  • If anxiety is a general problem, give your anxious pet lots of love and attention for being relaxed. But don’t provide attention when your pet is anxious and agitated because that will just up their energy.
  • As mentioned above, leave your pet with things to do, such as working on a food puzzle, to distract them. And it helps to tire them out before you leave. Play with your cat using a wand toy, or play fetch with your dog.

What if you have a dog who simply can’t be left alone safely no matter what you try, and you’re worried that they'll tear up the furniture or get hurt? That’s what doggy daycare is for! The staff can look after your pooch while you head off confidently to work. It will be like you’re carpooling to work together: “Here’s your stop. I’ll come get you at 5:15.” Find one where your dog seems excited to arrive and happily tired when you pick them up, and your dog will love it.

Is it better to return pets to the shelter instead of leaving them alone all day?

No! Your pet is so much happier with you and so much more comfortable in their home than they would be at a shelter. There’s just no comparison. 

By adopting or fostering a pet, you are saving lives. And there isn’t one pet at any shelter who wouldn’t be thrilled to have you, even if you’re gone during the day. So hang in there. You can do this and find a new, happy normal as you return to work. And so can Fido and Fluffy!

Logo Icon

Be our Best Friend

Best Friends Animal Society is working with you to save the lives of cats and dogs all across the country, giving pets second chances and happy homes.

Just a few short years ago, cats and dogs were killed in staggering numbers in this country simply because shelters didn't have the community support or the resources to save their lives. That number is now less that half a million per year, but there's still work to do to ensure a bright future for every dog and cat in America.

Best Friends operates the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals and is committed to saving the lives of homeless pets by working with shelters and passionate people like you. Together, we will bring the whole country to no-kill in 2025. Together, we will Save Them All.