All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good Pet for a Flight Attendant

Dear Marie,
I LOVE dogs and really, really want a pet. BUT, I am a flight attendant. The most I would be gone at one time is three days, but I'm mostly gone only two days, or the greater part of one day. My dad says I would be committing pet abuse if I got a dog and left it alone for that long. Can any dogs be left alone for two days? What pet would be fine on its own inside a studio? Can cats be left alone for two days, maybe three? They would not have access to the outdoors. I do live alone, so there would not be anybody to stop by and play or feed him. I hope there is a pet out there, besides a fish or bird or something scaly, that I could have.
Thank you,

Dear Tricia,
I can certainly understand wanting to have a pet, other than a fish. There is nothing like a happy dog or cat coming to greet you at the door after a long day. But quite honestly, I have to agree somewhat with your dad. Leaving a dog or a cat alone for up to three days at a time (And are we talking every week?) is just not a good scenario. Let me explain.

You as an adult human being can fully comprehend separation periods and the fact that you will be coming home eventually. A pet on the other hand, is emotionally equivalent to a small child. He doesn't understand time. He doesn't understand long periods of separation. He most certainly won’t understand YOU when you explain in English that you’ll be back in a few days.

He does, however, experience loneliness, loss, fear, anxiety, boredom, and a multitude of other emotions that will leave your pet with serious psychological scarring. This often leads to the derivation of behavioral problems, which in turn leads a frustrated owner to giving up a pet. Separation anxiety is the leading cause for barking in dogs. In an apartment complex, the last thing your neighbors want is a lonely, barking dog in the building. You can almost be guaranteed a stern talking to by the apartment manager. In addition to barking, many dogs become destructive when they are left alone. They chew anything and everything to deal with their unhappy feelings. Some dogs have been reported to cause thousands of dollars in damage when left alone and are also in danger of hurting themselves if they chew on electrical wires or get into cabinets with medicine or cleaning solutions.

You may now be wondering about cats. It is true that cats are more independent than dogs and tend to handle separation much better. But, this is only true with regards to an owner being gone during normal work hours. The reason for this is that while the average person is toiling in an office for 8-10 hours a day, the average cat is napping or enjoying a number of relaxing hours on a bed or in a sunny spot by a window. Eventually however, a pet cat is going to wonder what happened and will begin to experience stress. Having self-feeding and self-watering dishes are not enough for a sentient being. Pets crave and need companionship and will suffer if they are left on their own. There is a right time and a wrong time to adopt a pet. At this stage of your life, with your job that requires extended travel, I would have to say that this is probably the wrong time for you.

Perhaps though, your father could pet sit while you are away. This may be a workable alternative that would allow you to have a pet. Why don’t you talk it over with him? He seems to care about animals based on what you have written, so he may be up for this.

One final suggestion – there are many pets in animal shelters who can use some love and attention. Have you considered volunteering with one of these facilities? You’d be able to spend your at-home-time with a whole variety of animals, and yet not have the responsibility for them when you are away. It’s something to consider.

Best wishes.

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