Pets just wanna have fun! And sometimes fun = ruining your house when you’re gone for the day. All pet owners have been there: You say “bye” to your pal with paws, tell them to “be good” while you’re out, and then arrive home to a shredded couch and a chewed-up pair of shoes. So how do you stop your cat or dog from ruining the house? Us Weekly turned to Animal Planet’s go-to expert Andrea Arden and Best Friends Animal Society’s Cathy Bosley for the lowdown.
First of all, resist the urge to yell at your pet! If they’re ruining the house, chances are they’re simply acting out of boredom or frustration — especially in the case of dogs.
“People come home to find some misdeed and they respond by punishing the dog,” Arden tells Us. “It’s really just an animal living in a moment, and in that moment the animal is saying, ‘I’m locked up in this apartment, bored, I’ve got a lot of mental and physical energy that I don’t know what to do with, so yeah, I’m going to act like a dog. Can you imagine if I said to you, ‘I have a 5-year-old and I’m going to leave them at home for five hours, it’s fine?’”
So how can dog owners keep their pups occupied for hours on end — aside from hiring a dog walker or investing in expensive doggy daycare?
1. Toys and food: Dogs don’t watch TV, play video games, or mindlessly scroll through Insta Stories once you leave the house. In other words, they’re bored. So give them something to do that tires them out! Meet your new best friend: food-stuffable toys.
“Instead of taking your dogs food and putting in a bowl, why not allow your dog to do what dogs instinctually want to do which is scavenge and hunt,” Arden suggests. “Take their normal meals, put them in three or four indestructible hollow toys, and place them in different areas around the house. Make it a game, and make it progressively more challenging.”
2. Restrict the space: Sure, some dogs want to burn off energy, but other personalities act out because they crave a more confined space — whether it be a crate, a smaller room, or even just a cordoned-off section of the house.
”There are animals that absolutely do better when you limit their options,” Arden says. “Sometimes too many options stress animals out because they don’t know what to do with themselves.”
Pro tip: Don’t bother with Bitter Apple. First of all, who wants to cover their belongings with sticky spray? No one. And as Arden puts it: “Dogs eat feces. So the average dog is going to be like, ‘Meh, it’s stinky but I’ll get through it.’”
Now that we’ve gotten dogs taken care of, let’s talk cats — the ultimate homebodies. Cats tend to spend most of their day straight-chilling, but sometimes they act out — and there are a couple typical reasons why.
1. They’re bored and/or want something to mark, and whoops — they picked your couch.
The solution: Distract your cat with toys and put them near (or even on) the area they’re scratching. “It could be that they want to scratch, so give them another alternative,” Bosley advises. “If they’re scratching the couch, give them a scratching post near the couch so they can use that instead.”
You can also restrict their space (just make sure whatever room they’re in has a screened/closed window so their mind is kept active), and if you’re really desperate, Bosley says you can try tape: “Make that area that they’re scratching as unappealing to them as possible. You can try putting double-sided tape on the area they’re scratching and most cats don’t like to have their paws get sticky so they’ll stay away from it.”
Helpful note: Toys with food hidden inside also work for cats — and feeds into their hunt-and-kill instincts!
2. Your cat’s peeing outside its litter box.
The solution: Clean it like there’s no tomorrow! Not only should you scrub down the area of the house where your cat’s taken to peeing, you should also try cleaning their litter box frequently.
“There are some cats that are very persnickety and they’ll want to make sure there’s nothing in their litter box, ever,” says Bosley. That is usually the No. 1 reason why cats eliminate outside the litter box.”
Meaning, if the destruction in your house is urine-related, you probably have a fussy kitty on your hands. Though, if your normally well-behaved cat suddenly starts peeing outside the litter box, check in with the vet ASAP to make sure it doesn’t have a urinary tract infection or any other medical issues.
And FYI, if you have an alternative pet that’s allowed to roam the house while you’re out (shout out to all the hedgehog owners out there!) try employing some of these same tools. Pets are just like Us: They get bored and want something to do all day. Occupying them is key!
Us Weekly articles and content are for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in Us Weekly articles and/or content is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, veterinary or professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you believe your pet may have a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.