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I’ve always been an animal lover. Growing up, I had a family life full of pets; at one point when I was a kid, our house had a cat, a dog, a gerbil, a guinea pig and 6 aquariums full of fish. Old habits die hard, because today my husband and I have a dog and 3 cats.

I do much of my work from home, so having these furry creatures around me while I’m working is a natural occurrence. There have been studies done about pets in the workplace, which show that having an animal around, such as a dog, a cat or fish, can have a calming effect on the work environment. At the same time, having pets around all day long can sometimes present challenges, too. Over time, I’ve learned some ways to cope with having my furry friends around while I work in my home office. Here’s what I’ve found.

Keyboard Cats

It never fails that the minute I sit down to get something done at the computer, one or more of my cats will decide that’s the time when they need attention. They will attempt to hop on the desk, lay on my keyboard, toss papers out of baskets and generally do what they can to distract me from what I’m trying to get done. As if it’s not bad enough that we already have so many distractions from our work, some days I really don’t want a persistent kitty vying for my attention either.

Sometimes, shutting the door to the office or putting them in a separate closed-off room will solve the problem, but many cats don’t care for being locked out or locked up. Closing the door will only make them howl and scratch, which is often worse than having them in the room! I’ve found the best trick is to have plenty of catnip-infused toys handy. Then, when kitty gets to be too much, divert her attention with a bit of playtime. The catnip is very important here – no kitty on Earth can resist a long nap immediately after a good catnip high.

Dog Days

Dogs are a great addition to the home office environment, too. But inevitably, the minute I hop onto a conference call or start recording a podcast or lecture, my energetic pup will decide it’s playtime. He finds the squeakiest toy he has and proceeds to growl and snort and have a grand old time, leaving me apologizing to my clients or re-recording my show. Oh, and of course at the same time, the dog down the street will cross before the front window, and my dog will proceed to bark his head off for a while as well.

Again, putting puppy in his kennel or in a separate room while I’m on my call is one way to deal with this, but not all dogs are willing to go quietly. The best solution I’ve found is to make sure you get your dog out for some good, solid exercise every day for at least 45 minutes, preferably in the morning. This could be a run at the park or a good brisk walk around the neighborhood, but the goal here is to tire your pup out to the point where he spends most of the day sleeping instead of wanting to play with you. A tired dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog makes a happy owner (and happy clients and podcasting co-hosts, too!).

Something Fishy

The good thing about fish is they don’t make noise. ‘Nuff said.

I find that my life and my work are enriched greatly by having pets around. As much as I like to avoid having cats snoozing on my keyboard, I do like having them curled up in my lap while I work. And I love having my dog sleeping peacefully at my feet. Animals create a positive energy and a peaceful environment in which to work. But if you’re going to have pets around, make sure that they have everything they need to be calm and happy – and ultimately you’ll be calm and happy, too.

Photo Credit: Citrix Online

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  • Stacey

    Pets are why man invented booze, right?

  • Rbruce

    I love having my Golden curled up nearby while I work.  Mind you it’s not without incident.  During my first conference call in a completely virtual company my dog spit up the biggest hairball I’ve ever seen leading to the immortal words… “Please hold… the dog just puked.”