Bringing an animal into your home on a permanent basis is a big decision. It deserves deep consideration, not just for how that pet will impact your life, but also the effect you will have on their existence. It’s a contract – though you may not have signed your name on a piece of paper to officially authorize the deal, you are on the hook to provide the best life possible for that beautiful animal.
Fortunately, most people take the job seriously. It’s the perfect time of year to recognize those humans who truly value the lives of their animal companions. February is Responsible Pet Owners Month. Anyone who has given their heart to an animal would like to think that Responsible Pet Owners Month is the norm 12 times and 365 days a year. The suggestion for those who already provide the proper care isn’t to do anything different for your animal friend in February, but to remind us of the best way to meet your pet’s needs.
Nourish the body and soul
Good food is one of the foundational pieces for the health of any animal. Dog or cat, rabbit or bird, are you offering that pet a diet that provides balance and nutrition? It’s not just a matter of picking something expensive, by the way. What, when, and how much your pet eats is critical to their overall well-being. If your dog is 12 years old, a senior diet will have added nutrients to help offset the effects of an aging body. The same applies to a furball formula for a cat that coughs them up regularly. Identify your pet’s biggest nutritional needs, with the guidance of your veterinarian, and you will help them thrive.
Be sure not to overfeed them (use your pet food package labeling for guidelines). And of course, provide plenty of fresh, clean water to keep your friends hydrated and healthy.
Exercise their rights
Regular activity is one of the best things you as a responsible pet owner can provide for your companion. Animals, like humans, all have different levels of engagement. Your border collie certainly needs more run than an indoor cat. But making sure your animal gets the exercise it needs to keep the body fit and the mind clear, is not difficult. Regular walks and fetch sessions should be a normal part of your doggo’s routine. And in the case of that stay-at-home kitty, a cat tower, wand, or simple laser pointer are examples of products that will help them burn energy. Animals that exercise are less likely to be anxious and misbehave. Win-win.
Pet-proofing your home
The second a baby becomes mobile, parents invest in different tools, like installing a baby gate. It’s a proactive and precautionary move to ensure safety. We must do the same for our furry friends. Pet-proofing can mean different things depending on the animal. Latches on cabinets, securely storing away dangerous cleaning products and chemicals, making sure you have non-poisonous/pet-safe plants, covering/blocking holes in walls, keeping all medications out of reach, and tidying loose electrical components are just some things to address when you have a vulnerable pet in the home. Being smart from the start can help avoid a disaster.
Ask a vet
One of the most obvious characteristics of a responsible owner is giving a pet the healthcare that they need. This isn’t just about dealing with an acute situation in which your animal friend has been injured or is obviously sick. Any emergency requires a visit to the vet. But like pet-proofing, it’s important to be proactive. Make sure you schedule an annual appointment, as we do for ourselves. Ask questions about diet and activity, and in general, what you can do to help your companion live their best life?
You know what it takes to be a responsible pet owner. Their needs have been met and they have a home to enjoy for the duration of their precious lives. Your animal friend is worth every ounce of effort because they give you unconditional love, companionship, and affection. Here are three more extra tips to bring you to the expert level:
- Watch pet-centric movies (Marley and Me, Benji, Aristocats, Eight Below, Puss in Boots) or read books (Old Yeller, The Call of the Wild, Charlotte’s Web) with them to remind you exactly why these beautiful beings tug at our heartstrings. Prepare to cry. But know you have a buddy to hug for comfort.
- Doggie owners should note that February 23rd is National Dog Biscuit Day in the United States. Who are we kidding? Most days are dog biscuit days. But maybe you can do something extra special for them on the 23rd.
- Start a social media feed. Most owners believe their pet is special, be it that funny face they make or the chaos when doing zoomies around the house. You can prove it to others by creating your own Instagram or TikTok feed. The only downside is it’s easy to lose hours watching other cute animals do their thing.