Since February is Responsible Pet Owners Month, I thought I would “tweet” about what I think it means to be a responsible pet owner? This is something over which I’ve thought long and hard since I’ve been an animal lover my entire life. If we look around us, homelessness is the case for so many animals. They wonder, what is to become of me? Will I find my forever home, and will the humans be kind to me? There is a famous quote that I can’t get out of my mind when I consider such qualities of what it means to be a responsible pet owner.
“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Written by one of my favorite writers, I will describe what this quote means to me. If you make the decision to bring an animal into your home, you need to be aware that everything will change, but from my experience, it changes for the better; your life is enriched. It becomes full in ways you never thought possible. You never dreamed you could grow to love a furry being so much, oftentimes as much as a friend or family member. Once you have brought this creature into your home, you are responsible for it forever. Of course, this quote can be perceived in a number of ways, and this is just one of them.
Sometimes humans don’t want to be separated from their furry friends. I’ve heard from many pet owners that they are reluctant to go on vacation because they don’t want to leave their animal companions behind. Fortunately, more hotels and guest houses are becoming dog friendly, and you can even choose destinations that are pet friendly and that provide human/pet vacations spots like The Getaway at Glen Highland Farm in Morris, NY. If I were a dog, this is definitely where I would want to go on holiday!
There are four areas of responsible pet ownership that I think are the most important, and I will list them in their order of importance:
Love and make time for your furry friend.
Every day, even if it is only for a short time, show your pet affection and play with him or her; this goes for cats, dogs, bunnies, birds, etc. As someone whose opinion I do not share said to me once about cats, they are just walking pieces of furniture. What a cad! I could not disagree more; each cat is an individual and must be treated as such. Cats have different personalities just as humans do. One cat may love to sit in your lap and be stroked, while another behaves like a Ninja and will let you pet her once in a blue moon. That’s the way it is. You can’t make a cat do anything unless it has to do with its safety or health. Nothing can substitute for the time you spend with your pet. If you have a dog, some basic obedience training is a must. You need to be your dog’s leader, set parameters and show him what you expect; it is important to use positive reinforcement techniques to train your puppy or dog. Love, patience and positive training will go a long way to solidify the animal/human bond.
Have a plan in place in case of emergency or should something happen to you.
You need to have something planned should there be an emergency. Also, it is important to line up someone who will step up to the plate to pet sit or adopt your dog should the unexpected happen to you. Many of us don’t like to think about these important issues because they make us uncomfortable. You can make provisions in your will or arrange details with a trusted friend or relative.
Feed your pet good quality pet food; ask your veterinarian what he/she recommends.
Watch the table scraps and treats. There can be too much of a good thing and you don’t want Cecily or Stewart to pack on the pounds. As my Nano (grandmother) used to say, “Everything in moderation.” The amount you give your pet will depend on the size of and the amount of exercise he gets. You and your canine friend can enjoy the outdoors and regularly walk together. Forty five minutes of cardio activity is great for both of you, and it is a time for you to bond!
Take your dog for regular vaccines and check-ups once a year.
Early intervention and prevention is the key. It is easier to deal with a problem if you catch it early as opposed to waiting until your animals’ health takes a turn for the worse. In this way a preventive approach will save you money and heartache.