RTO…the acronym instilling fear into the hearts of pets everywhere.

Whether you are dreading a return to the office or looking forward to it (or fall somewhere in between), it’s a sure bet your cat/dog/guinea pig/bird/fish/reptile is about to experience a serious disruption to their routine, and they’re not going to be happy about it.

Yes, even your cat.


The wellbeing of our furry/feathered/scaly friends is essential to our own.  People who own pets tend to be less stressed, more confident, exercise more (and develop stronger hearts as a result) – in short, just plain happier folks all around.


But don’t take my word for it.  A joint study carried out by researchers at Miami University and St. Louis University in 2011 found that compared to those who did not own pets, pet owners had higher self-esteem, were more extraverted, and were less fearful of the challenges of everyday life.  In addition, those who owned pets were also able to bounce back faster after experiencing situations where they felt sad or rejected, proving that pets are good for our metal health, too.

Since having pets in our lives provides us with so many benefits, how can we in turn help our pets to feel less distressed about us going back to work?  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Start planning now.  If you’ve been with your pet almost 24/7 since the beginning of the pandemic, gradually start introducing “downtimes” when you work in a separate room with the door closed.  This way, your RTO won’t seem quite as abrupt.
  2. Introduce new toys and treats.  Your pet will likely be bored since his/her greatest source of entertainment – YOU – is no longer present for large chunks of the day.  Help prevent destructive behavior (often caused by boredom) by purchasing one of these great motion-activated toys for cats and dogs, or a toy that makes getting treats a game, before you go back to work.
  3. Be understanding.  If you come home after a long day at the office only to find that your pet has done something destructive in your absence, try and understand that, as mentioned above, boredom is often a catalyst for bad behavior.
  4. Set up a video cam.  There are a plethora of low-cost cameras that connect to your smartphone via an app, so you can observe your pets throughout the day.  Many even have a two-way feature where you can talk with them, but be aware that in some cases this may confuse your pet and possibly cause them additional distress.
  5. Take your pet to work.  If you’re lucky enough to have a pet-friendly workplace, why go back to the office alone?

Remember that ALL of us, including our pets, are learning how to navigate the pandemic-related disruptions in our lives as we go.  With a little planning and a healthy dose of empathy, you can ease the transition for your pet – and for yourself!