There’s a saying, “animals make us human.” It’s because the way we treat the creatures in our care shows what kind of people we are. If you care about your own health, what you eat and what kind of home you live in, it’s important that you care about the health and happiness of the animals that share your home. Love is important for your pet, but so is proper care and mental stimulation. Here are the essential basics of providing a good life for your pet:
Spay or neuter your pet. With an overabundance of animals in shelters who already need loving homes, there’s no need for you to supply your neighborhood with more puppies or kittens. Why take the risk of filling the world with more unwanted animals? Feral animals breed like wildfire and usually end up hungry, sick and diseased. Besides, your local bird population will thank you, as a few feral cats is all it takes to hunt them into neighborhood extinction.
Feed them what they really need. If you care about the kind of food you put into your own body, you’ve got to care about your animal’s diet too. You don’t have to buy the most expensive stuff, but take a few minutes to look at the ingredients. Dogs and cats eat meat, and although it’s perfectly fine to include vegetarian items in their food, the first few ingredients need to be real meat. Not “chicken by-product meal” (which means ground up bones, beaks and feathers), but actual chicken. Your pet’s long term health is worth it. Avoid grains and fillers.
Appreciate what they bring to you. You take care of your pet, but your pet takes care of you, too! The unconditional adoration from your dog is pretty hard to find anywhere in the human world, and a cat’s satisfied purr as it naps on your belly has got to be one of the most wonderful things in the world. Take time to appreciate their personalities and companionship – being a good human requires more than just feeding them and taking them to the vet.
Exercise with your dog. Part of the responsibility you chose when you decided to keep a dog is to make sure they get plenty of daily exercise. Unless your dog is blessed with a huge yard and a few other doggy companions, you need to make sure you schedule in trips to the dog park, a vigorous game of fetch, some rough and tumble wrestling or a brisk jog through the neighborhood. The active lifestyle will do both of you a lot of good. Consider your dog your best workout partner!
Play with your cat. If you share your life with a cat, you know they like to sleep for hours, but cats get bored too. They need playtime and stimulation, and it’s easy to create simple, inexpensive toys (a feather on a string, a ball with a bell inside) to keep them active and entertained. Most cats go nuts chasing the light from a laser pointer!
Adopt from animal shelters. If you’re looking for a new animals to expand your pet-family, I urge you to adopt from a shelter. The reasons not to buy from a pet store are numerous, and you’ll really be saving an adopted critter’s life by letting them into your heart and home.
As much as you can, go green. From carpet cleaners to flea control, it’s always best to reduce the amount of chemicals in your personal environment. Guest writer Kathryn Hawkins has a whole list of ways to green your pet’s life (which is part of greening yours).
Regular check-ups. I know, I know, it’s not easy getting your animal friends to the vet. They always seem to know what you’re up to and hide out in the hardest to reach corners of the house. But it’s important they get checked out regularly, because a condition caught early on is much easier to treat than something full blown. Remember the adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” (this goes for you too!). Don’t be afraid to explore alternative treatments like animal acupuncture and pet massage.
Teach kids respect for animals. If you have children or kids that visit your home often, it’s important you teach them how to care for and respect your pets. Take the time to show them how to gently pet, and not pester, these critters who are trying to relax in their own home. Kids always learn best by example.