There is nothing that inspires us more to be a great pet owner than seeing the big, soft, adorable eyes of a little dog or cat (or rabbit, if you like!) For many, taking action means giving our pet another treat or pat behind the ears. While these are great gestures and are wonderfully appreciated by our pets, a lot more goes into taking care of favorite companions.
Despite our best intentions, there are many actions we take as pet owners that get overlooked and in the long run are actually bad for our pet. You may need to start asking yourself question like do they really need that third treat today, for example. It's not always about giving out pet what they want, but rather showing them what they need (because what dog wants to go to the vet?).
Here are some things you can do as a pet owner that will make your animal happy, healthy, and a true part of the family.
Train Your Pet
Training is an important part of any pet's life. Most experts recommend a reward-based training method, where the pet is set up to succeed and then rewarded for performing the ‘good’ behavior (positive reinforcement). This makes the experience fun and enjoyable for your pet and helps facilitate a better relationship between animal and owner.
When we don't train our animals properly, we end up wanting to spend a lot of time screaming or shouting at them to stop doing the behaviors we don't want. This is unfair to the animal when they have never been given the opportunity to learn from right and wrong, and will only cause them to be more flustered. In the end, it can make the animal turn on you.
Give Them Veterinarian Care
One of the best things you can do for your pet is to make regular visits to the veterinarian. Wellness checkups are important to the overall health of your animal and can help your vet catch the early stages of disease. In general, adult dogs and cats should have a check-up every year and senior pets should have a wellness exam at least once every six months.
So go ahead and set up a veterinary appointment for your pet's wellness exam now. Waiting to visit the vet until your pet shows signs of illness is not a good idea since the signs of illness are often subtle. Pets don’t tell us when they feel sick. Their instincts are often to hide pain and discomfort so as not to appear weak to others.
Feed Them Properly
A complete and balanced diet is vital. Our pets' dietary needs change over time due to their age, health conditions, and activity levels. Because of these different requirements, be sure to talk to your vet about using a food that’s specifically balanced for the life stage of your pet. Make sure you read the directions carefully to ensure you are feeding your pet the correct amount.
Furthermore, take a look at what extra bits you are giving to your pet. Are you feeding your pet table scraps on a regular basis? Do you hand out treats multiple times a day without thinking? Just like you do with your pet’s everyday food, you may want to consider providing treats with a combination of nutrients and vitamins that will help your pet maintain a balanced diet.
Play With Your Pet
At the very least, you should spend 15 minutes a day actually playing with your pet. This will provide great physical and mental health benefits for both you and your pet. It's a great way to distress from the day and bond with your pet. Even if you’ve had them for years, they’ll still respond just as well as they did when they were younger.
Toys and food puzzles are another great way to provide stimulation to your pet and promote better health. Whether your animal is a hunter or scavenger by nature, there are toys and food puzzles available that can fulfill their instinctual needs. They don't have to be expensive either; there are plenty of simple toys you can even make yourself for your pet using items lying around your house.
Socialize Your Pet
Not properly socializing your dog or cat can result in an animal that is fearful, shy or aggressive in unfamiliar situations. The optimal time for socialization is when your pet is young as this is the time they are most receptive to new experiences. However, all pets can benefit from proper socialization techniques.
Depending on your pets comfort level, gradually expose them to all sorts of different scenarios, including places, other animals and people of all ages. Never force an interaction if they are stressed and reward them when they remain calm. Start off slowly and gradually build up to more intense and stimulating situations. Don't immediately take your new kitten into a room with your two toddlers, for example. Work up to that by allowing your kitten to meet older adults first.
Learn your pets body language.
Ever wonder why your cat seems to love rubbing up against your leg? Maybe you have wondered what it means when your dog curls his tail under? Knowing how to decipher your pet's body language will help you better understand what your animal is trying to communicate.
For instance, you may be able to recognize when your companion isn't feeling so great, is stressed or doesn't want any human interaction. Decoding body language can be difficult at times, so it's important to get a bond with your pet so you can recognize changes in their behavior sooner rather than later. You might need to jump in an deescalate a situation, for example, if your cat starts stretching your claws out at a new visitor.
Make Your Home Pet-Friendly
When you first got your pet you probably did the whole shebang when it came to pet-proofing your home, like making sure all medicines were out of reach, putting a gate over the fireplace, and covering the cords on the ground. You knew your pet was going to be curious, so you did what you could to prevent them from getting into stuff they shouldn't.
Over time, though, we tend to get a little lax on keeping our house pet-proof. Though our pets have gotten older, it doesn't mean that they can't get into trouble any longer. Have you been leaving your dog alone outside with a pool? What about making sure your cats food bowl is out of reach of young children? These are things that need to be thought through often, not just when your pet first arrives.
Learn About Your Pet and Breed
They say that knowledge is power, and that applies even to basic pet ownership. Many people think taking care of a cat is easy - feed them, clean their litter box, and show them some love. What one might not realize, though, is that because their cat is a British Shorthair they are more prone to a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Ignorance is not always bliss.
Before you get a pet, or even if you have one now, make sure you do full extensive research on their breed so that you can provide the best care. This includes finding out their activity level, food allergies, and the like. From there, you also can spot out problems with your pet more quickly and get them professional services if needed.