How to create a home office space that works for you and your pets
The legacy of lockdowns means that more and more of us are working at home – and it’s something that looks set to become a regular arrangement for many people. While this new way of working suits most pet owners – who are loving the extra time they get to spend with their furry friends – it doesn’t come without it’s challenges. If you’ve been in the middle of an important Zoom call and your cat has leapt onto your laptop or your dog has exploded in an unexplained barking frenzy, you’ll know exactly what we mean...
So, what’s the solution? The answer could be creating a pet-friendly office space that’s safe and cosy, with pet toys and things to do to keep your office dog or office cat happily occupied – leaving you to get on with your work in peace...
Carry out a risk assessment
Start by taking a tour of your home office space from your pet’s point of view. This is a bit like new parents thinking about how to baby-proof their home. What are the potential hazards? What could be chewable when you’re occupied on an important task? What could fall down, or be knocked off? Practical tips include:
- Secure heavy bookshelves to the wall so a clambering cat or bouncy dog won't knock them over
- Keep the floor clear of sharp objects and choking hazards
- Cover electrical sockets with safety covers and protect loose wires by housing them in a cable tidy unit
- Keep all office supplies such as paperclips, staples, pens, toner cartridges, ink and glue tucked away in a drawer, well away from curious paws and noses
- If you have plants, make sure they’re pet friendly. Lots of houseplants, such as amaryllis, poinsettia, and lilies are really toxic to animals, particularly cats, and can be fatal if ingested
- Store any rubbish somewhere that your pets can’t reach and recycle/bin it at the end of each day
- Keep human foods and medications out of reach too as they could make your pets very ill – and be wary of where you put your cup of hot coffee to avoid accidental spills
Set out an office management plan
- Place important documents and files on high shelves out of your pet’s reach – could you imagine having to explain to your boss/client that your dog ate your homework?
- Go all Marie Kondo and adopt a minimalist approach to your office design. Remove clutter and anything breakable that could be knocked off by a velvety paw or waggy tail. If you want to add decorations or artwork, choose things you can hang on the wall
- Avoid wood furniture if possible as it’s just too temptingly chewy for dogs and alluringly scratchy for cats. Office chairs with metal legs might be a better choice
- If your home office space has a sofa or comfy chair, it’ll likely be targeted as a prime snoozing spot by your four-pawed colleagues. To keep the effects of muddy prints and piles of fluff in check, invest in a couple of washable throws covers
- For the same reason, you may want to purchase a cheap, washable rug for your office floor so you won’t get too cross if it gets marked or nibbled on
Ensure that you’re IT compliant
- Place your computer out of the reach of your pet. If your favourite feline decides that the PC tower looks like a scratching post you could be faced with an expensive repair bill
- If you a have a laptop be sure to close it when you’re not using it. For some peculiar reason, cats seem to love napping on laptops, using the keyboard for kneading exercises (did you wonder how that important document got deleted?) and, if there’s a glass of water in the vicinity, are adept at knocking it all over everything on your desk
- The hairier your pet, the more fur is likely to find its way into the components of your computer and other equipment, causing damage. Regular brushing with a good grooming tool will minimise the risk by removing any loose fur from your pet’s coat. You may also want to invest in a handheld vacuum cleaner and a set of keyboard cleaning brushes so you can keep your kit as fluff-free as possible
Allocate a special place for your VIP (very important pet)
- Most pets like to be close to their beloved guardian so place a comfy bed nearby or under your desk so you can give them a reassuring stroke while you work. Some dogs may prefer their bed to be in cosy nook in a quiet corner of your office.
- Generally, cats will enjoy having a range of options – a self-heating pet pad placed on a chair next to you or a radiator cat bed, a cocoon-style bed they can hide away in, a soft cushion artfully placed on a windowsill where they can curl up in the sun and get a good view of the birds outside, or a suitably placed shelf where they can keep an eye on proceedings from a safe height. All of these, purrlease...
- If your animal companions are small pets – such as house rabbits – and you’re sharing office space with them during the day, it’s best to section off an area with all their food, toys and hiding places in so you know they’re safe and not tempted to nibble on anything they shouldn’t while you’re busy
Plan the day’s tasks
If your pet wants your attention the minute you start to concentrate on what’s on your screen by climbing on your lap, pawing you, whining or meowing, you’ll need to have a strategy or you’ll never get anything done. Here are some tactics to try out:
- If your cat keeps leaping onto your laptop, try to resist petting them, or they’ll only come back for more. If they don’t get the attention they want, they’re likely to wander off and act like they didn’t want you to pet them in the first place, leaving you to get on with the task in hand...
- Fill a basket with your dog’s favourite toys (swap them around each day to keep things interesting). Include some chew toys for them to discover and chow down on. Try some boredom-busting toys such as LickiMats or Kongs stuffed with their favourite food (make sure it’s part of their daily ration, not extra!) and puzzle toys to keep them busy
- For cats, set up games for them with cardboard boxes that have catnip toys hidden inside or fill a treat dispensing ball with dry food and watch the paw-patting fun begin. Food activity toys tap into cats’ natural hunting instincts, keeping them mentally and physically active without having to bother you
Factor in some play-with-me time
Ditching the commute means you have extra hours in your working day to spend quality time with your furry companions – so it’s good to make the most of it.
- Get into a routine with your canine chum – a walk before you start, one at lunchtime and an evening stroll once you’ve packed up for the day will do wonders for you and your pet. Regular exercise will help keep your dog content so they’re not constantly begging for your attention while you work
- If you have a cat, make time to play with them in short bursts of around 15 minutes throughout the day. The best games are those that make the most of their natural repertoire of behaviours – stalking, pouncing, chasing and batting objects with a paw, exploring, climbing, jumping and patrolling. These ‘hunting’ skills, replicated by pursuing or swiping at a toy, release feel-good hormones called endorphins, which boost feline feelings of wellbeing so, after playtime, they’ll be happy to nap while you’re attending to business
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