Play Stuff Blog

Business Hours… For Pets  

Otto and Alice lingering around the metaphorical water cooler. Courtesy of the author.

In 2016, the animated film The Secret Life of Pets made us chuckle at the notion that our beloved animal companions lead very different lives than what we imagine after we leave for work or school. Most of us assume they simply lounge around snoozing or staring out the window, anxiously awaiting our return. However, with more people working from home right now than ever before, it has become apparent that our pets—just like most of us—have a distinct daily routine and they, too, are adjusting to this new way of life.

Television and the internet have recently blown up with segments, articles, and social media posts dedicated to this very topic capturing the reactions of pets as owners attempt to work from home. Some stand and stare while others (primarily cats) actively interfere by sitting on a mouse  or keyboard or by passing between users and their screens during Zoom meetings. Even celebrities such as Stephen Colbert and Ellen DeGeneres are not immune to the tomfoolery of pets as they broadcast from home. Colbert’s dog recently made a brief cameo before bolting offscreen to chew on an equipment cord, leaving the usually poised host scrambling to intervene. While this behavior is entertaining, it does make us wonder what our pets actually do all day that they feel so disrupted by our presence. Do they keep their own business hours? If that’s the case, my pets are absolutely terrible employees. The dog is far too distracted by neighborhood dogs walking by or the gentle rumble of the mail truck rolling down our street. The cats are rarely awake (no matter the time of day) and even when they are, they prove unreliable at best.

Photograph, Christmas 1961 football game and cat. Gift of Carolyn Reno in memory of Tom and Nan Reno, The Strong, Rochester, New York Alternatively, I find myself wondering about animals that do seem to have jobs. Are they wondering why their daily routine has shifted or are they enjoying themselves? For instance, penguins at the Detroit Zoo were recently allowed roam around the grounds and admire their fellow animals and seemed quite pleased. Alternatively, The Strong’s live collections are used to welcoming human friends daily, and may be wondering about the decrease in activity along the paths in Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden or by the lack of smiling facing peering in from the opposite side of the aquarium glass. Not to worry though, the animals at the museum are hardly on vacation or lacking social interaction as Anna Simpson, supervisor of live collections, has been hard at work maintaining their daily routine ensuring they are happy and healthy. Anna also hosts virtual meet and greets so our guests can still enjoy learning about their favorite animals from just about anywhere. Virtual animal encounters have increased in the past few weeks, as there are now a wide array of websites and social media channels dedicated to animals—wild and domestic—that help entertain us during these unusual times. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Cheetah Cub Cam features the newest residents to the cheetah habitat and has quickly become a fan favorite.

Sharing our time with animals, in person or virtually, can provide a much-needed positive distraction during times when the news seems inescapable and grim. So, if you’re home with pets, make the most of your time together. Play ball, learn about other animals together online, or just enjoy a nap on the couch together—just be sure you check their business hours first.

Do you and your pet have a favorite activity you do together? We’d love for you to share with us! Head on over to The Strong’s Play Stories page to submit your favorite photos, videos, and stories.