It may surprise you to know a few facts:
There are about 80 million dogs and more than 90 million cats nice and comfy in U.S.A. homes.
According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, 45% of people telecommute for at least part of their work week.
Now that’s a lot of mega numbers and stats to throw at you – but it only means one thing to pet parents who are trying to get work done from a home office: that one of your closest coworkers has four paws and may need a walk at lunchtime or perhaps some tuna!
If you are working from home but are having a challenging time with your pet, hopefully these tips will help you. Probably the most important “take away” to understand is that your four-footed colleagues have needs and priorities, just as anyone who is trying to reach a work deadline or land a big client does too. If you are tempted to work from home then it is important for you to understand that getting along with your pets is part of the equation.
Tip #1: Your pet belongs in the home just as you do.
If you are frustrated at your pet’s actions while you are working, realize that in some ways you have “invaded” their space. You have been the one who has been working outside of the home, going to school or who has had another routine. In other words, they are the alpha dog and you are the beta.
Tip #2: Understand that your dog or cat has a “job” just as you do.
Now drinking out of the toilet in the middle of the day or watching traffic go by from the biggest window in the living room may not seem like the toughest job you’ve ever seen – and we certainly aren’t going to disagree with you. But your pet is doing what they’ve always done and what you love them for – being a pet and an animal! Most pets have a sense of a routine to their day and will regularly do things in the morning, mid-day and then the afternoon just as you do for your job. Now that you are working from home – your job and their “job” may have conflicts, as your pet is trying to do what they’ve always done and you, my friend, are trying to do something new. Again, you are the beta.
Tip #3: If their actions disrupt yours, how can you work with them?
You may need to help them modify behavior – or you may need to slightly modify yours if you can. Now this is one of the most helpful tips to getting along with your pet. I’ll give you an example from working from home with my cat Sammy.
Sammy was part Russian Blue, a cat breed that is known for being very social, super friendly and also extremely vocal (big meows!). I would be on the telephone with clients and they would say, “Do you need to check on that crying baby?” Most of my clients are pretty understanding about a cat, but if I was making an important call or calling a new client – I would put Sammy outside or try to call when he was going outside for awhile.
I have a new cat now, Penguin. He has a very sweet personality but I’ll admit I’m finding it frustrating that he is absolutely determined to walk straight across my keyboard when I’m typing! To modify his behavior, I’m picking him up when he starts to walk by and then patting him. It seems to me that he wants my attention because the computer and keyboard have all of my focus in that moment – and smart lil’ kitty has figured that out! So again, modifying behavior can be possible too sometimes.
Other ways to modify behavior include giving them toys to play with as a distraction, treats for a reward for good behavior, and sending them outside (like with Sammy).
Tip #4: Be proactive about phone time.
After chatting with work-at-home friends, I discovered that this is one of the top challenges they’ve faced with working with a pet. The pet is either noisy or simply wants them to be with them instead of the phone. Realize that you have made the choice to work from home and it may come with some benefits – no commute other than from your morning cup of coffee to your laptop and you can wear yoga pants all day. But your phone calls to your boss should not be interrupted by you saying every 2 minutes “Not now Pickles, walk time later! Sorry…what was that again?” Otherwise you’ll likely find yourself back in the cubicle farm and someone on the other end of Pickles’ leash!
Tip #5: Protect your computer.
Anyone who has not dropped out of the sky from a time machine sent from 1982 or who is not a complete luddite knows that you need to have antivirus software. But that’s not at all what this is about. I’m talking about protecting it from your four-footed coworker.
Yes, there is actually software to prevent what is called “cat like typing!” So when your pet jumps up and types RFTRFTRFTRFT all over your report and then puts a hind leg on the Enter key, this lovely document will not be sent to the Corporate Office where they will wonder what you are putting in your morning coffee.
Tip #6: Listen to what your pet is saying to you when they act up.
One of the true gifts of working at home with pets is you have the opportunity to really bond with your pet, spending time with them during the day you might not have otherwise. And the two of you may need to adjust to this, as I’ve mentioned, with you needing to help them modify a bit and you doing that as well.
But if you’ve tried this in a gentle way and your dog keeps barking or your cat keeps being disruptive, it may be time to take them to the vet. It is better to have a quick vet visit to rule out other conditions, like an illness that is causing them pain or discomfort so they are acting in this way because they are uncomfortable and upset.
No one wants their pet to suffer and if there is nothing else going on, your vet may have other tips to suggest for you, ways to modify your home environment, or routine to help them as they know your specific pet.
Tip #7: Be glad you can cowork with your pet.
All joking aside, one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about working from home is spending time with my cats. You can remind me of that in case Penguin does manage to send a funny document to a client as I help him “modify” his behavior!
Two years ago, my cat Steinbeck was diagnosed with cancer and given a month to live, if that. I was devastated but took comfort in the fact that I would be at home with him as much as possible. Stienbeck lived for four and a half months, in comfort, active and with a hearty appetite, all things that surprised his vet. “He lived to be with you,” one of my friends told me. Enjoy every day with your pets!
See Also: 8 Tips for Coping with Pet Loss