Chronic loneliness and social isolation is not only debilitating for humans; dogs and cats can also suffer the psychological, and perhaps physical, impacts of being alone and not emotionally connected or engaged on a regular basis. Pet loneliness, which differs from separation anxiety, can manifest from a new or temporary situation triggered by changes like moving to a new home, a teenager going off to college, or a significant schedule alteration for the owner. More worryingly, it can be a long-term problem caused by prolonged seclusion—a situation that, unfortunately, becomes a way of life for many of our nation’s four-legged family members.
There is debate as to whether or not research on chronic loneliness, proven to have direct links to impeding both the mental and physical health of humans—including conditions like dementia, insomnia, anxiety, depression and potentially lethal heart disease—impacts pets in similar ways. More certainly, however, even beyond potential ominous health concerns, lonely pets can be unhappy, bored and lethargic. This often leads to a variety of unsavory behaviors and dissatisfaction for all involved. The more social the pet’s nature, the higher probability that problems will be present and persist.