When choosing to add a pet to the family, you may spend more time focusing on the joy and happiness you expect your new pet will bring. While pets can certainly deliver happiness and joy, they also come with a set of obligations that everyone should consider. February is Responsible Pet Ownership month, and it is a great time to be reminded about what it means to be a good pet parent. While there is no true definition of a responsible pet parent, these are a few widely accepted tips to help you create a happy, healthy life for your furry friends.
When adopting your pet, you should commit to caring for him for his entire life. Pets depend on their human companions for their daily care throughout their entire lives. You should consider your ability to care for a pet for however long his lifespan may be. Certainly life hands us things we don’t expect, so you should also consider who may be able to care for your pet if circumstances prevent you from being able to do so yourself.
Much like in marriage, this commitment should also be thought of as one that lasts through good times and bad, in sickness and health. Our pets are not always perfect, and you should be willing to invest the time, effort and money to work through any behavioral or health challenges that might arise.
Food and Shelter
Providing your pet with the basic necessities of life should go without saying. Your pets will need continuous access to clean water, healthy and nutritious food, and shelter from the elements, preferably within the home. Cats and dogs will live healthier, happier, more rewarding lives when they are treated as full members of the family, living side-by-side with us in our homes.
Regular preventive care is key to helping your pet live a long and healthy life. It’s best to establish a relationship with a veterinarian to help keep you on track with regular check-ups and vaccinations. Your veterinarian can also guide you on how to address your pet’s hygiene and grooming needs, as well as tackling seasonal issues like fleas, ticks and worms. An established relationship with a vet can also be helpful as your pet ages. Most pet owners will have to face the decline of their pets’ health as they age. Your vet can help you keep your pet comfortable, pain free, and loved, and guide you in making decisions on end-of-life care.
Spay and Neuter
Animal overpopulation is a real issue in our country and all over the world. Responsible pet ownership includes preventing your pets from reproducing by getting them spayed or neutered. Until every homeless pet has a home, there is no reason for any companion animal to reproduce.
Training and Socialization
Behavioral issues are the number one reason why animals are surrendered to shelters, so training and socializing our pets helps make sharing our homes with them much easier. A dog who has been trained in basic obedience knows what behaviors are acceptable and what is expected of him. This can help him be more cooperative, comfortable, and confident in the home environment. Cats who are trained to stay off certain surfaces and are trained where it is appropriate to scratch will be much easier to get along with in the home.
Exercise and Enrichment
Our pets need to stay in shape just like we do. Regular exercise is necessary to keep their muscles strong, their hearts healthy, and immune systems more resilient. Regular exercise also provides the mental stimulation that keeps pets happy. It is also important to pay attention to our pets’ emotional needs. Pets long for the attention of their human companions. One of the most inhumane things to do is to leave a cat to persistently meow outside at an unanswered door or to leave a dog chained to a tree in the yard.
This may be the most important responsibility of all. Our pets are not possessions we own. They are companions who depend on us for their care. They need our love and devotion throughout their lives and should be welcomed into our homes as full members of the family. Our pets are in tune with us and live for our happiness. Responsible pet parents work hard to do the same for them.