Some considerations are obvious, particularly to veteran pet parents: providing loving care and cuddles, maintaining a regular rotation of dog treats or kitty toys, and getting personal collars with IDs made. You may also want to have your pet microchipped if they’re the high-energy and wandering type.
Are you a new dog or cat owner unsure of your responsibilities? Don’t worry—we’re here to help. Below are six tips that will help you turn your good intentions into actionable and productive pet health reminders.
1. Be Aware of Common Problems and Special Requirements.
Two questions: Can you afford to take care of this pet? Do you have the time to spare?
It’s easy to establish a bond with your new pet. Attention and affection are important! Set aside some quality time for your pet each day, whether it’s playing fetch or going on a walk. Not only will you get to know your pet better, but you will familiarize yourself with their habits. This is crucial, as a change in their attitude or routine is sometimes a sign that your pet is not feeling well.
Certain cat or dog varieties have common health risks. If you’re adopting a rescue, you also need to take into consideration your future pet’s former home life. Some behavioral corrections may be needed, so you need to be careful and patient until your furry friend adjusts completely to being with you.
2. Make Sure Your Pet Is Well-Behaved and Sociable.
Training your pet is a necessity. Not only will they be easier to discipline around the home, but well-trained animals are easier to integrate into more family and social activities.
At the very least, you should prioritize teaching your dog where to pee and poop—and how to let you know if they need to do so. This will help you keep a cleaner and more sanitary house, and will cut down on embarrassing accidents that may happen in public places like pet stores or vet clinics.
Your pet’s happiness does depend in part on socialization, so it’s imperative that they know how to behave around other animals and people—especially young children. It’s never fun to be an owner of an antisocial or aggressive cat or dog, and your pet will be likewise unhappy if you leave them home and alone too often.
3. Feed Your Pet Nutritious and Balanced Meals.
It can be tempting to keep giving your flavored pet treats and food scraps from the table. However, this habit may disrupt ongoing training and encourage bad behavior—not to mention that it could mess with their diet. Veterinarians typically recommend that treats should take up at most 10 percent of your pet’s daily calorie requirement.
Cat kibble and dog food exist for a reason. They’re specifically formulated to cover all of your pet’s dietary needs. Follow the instructions on the labels, though. There’s a danger of overfeeding, especially if you simply keep their food bowl filled all the time.
On the opposite extreme, make sure you’re feeding them enough, so they’re not tempted to forage or scavenge on their own. Check if your indoor and outdoor plants are toxic for cats and dogs, and replace them if they are.
Keep their water bowl similarly filled, as well. Proper hydration is just as important, as this could affect their bathroom schedule.
4. Exercise and Play With Your Pet Regularly.
Pets can get bored, just like humans. While cats and dogs do sleep more than we do, they also still need physical stimulation. Spending time with your pets will also strengthen your relationship with them.
Remember: Sedentary pets are more prone to suffer from conditions like arthritis, diabetes or heart disease. If that doesn’t get you to take this seriously, we don’t know what will.
It doesn’t take much. You can take your dog out on a walk daily. Laser pointer tag with your cat doesn’t even require you to move—just point and move a dot for your feline friend to follow. You can also try hiding treats for them to find, or building obstacle courses in a designated part of your home.
Do consider getting in some exercise of your own while making sure your pet has enough physical activity in his life. Many pets mirror the behavior and lifestyle of their owners, so if you’re in need of physical and social movement, chances are your pet does, too.
5. Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Vet.
Going to the vet regularly is a must. Take your pet in for annual exams, so your veterinarian can order health screens and perform maintenance checks for issues like dental hygiene or parasitic infections.
Preventative medications and vaccines are essential. It is heartbreaking to watch a pet suffer from a preventable tick or flea infestation, or from a disease such as parvo or rabies. Don’t skip out these measures because of the cost. Again: If you cannot afford to do this for your pet, you are not ready to be a pet owner.
Consider getting your pet spayed or neutered, too. This procedure may help prevent some diseases and cancers and also improve their behavior. Your pet’s life expectancy may also be extended as a result of this simple surgery.
6. Schedule Routine Grooming Sessions for Your Pet.
Grooming involves so much more than regular baths. You need to brush their teeth and trim their claws, too. Check and dry their ears, especially after swimming or giving them a shower. This is done to avoid yeast or bacterial infections.
You need to keep an eye on changes in your pet’s skin and fur—which is easier to do if you’re also brushing and combing them on a schedule. This is also a good time to check your pet for irregularities like bumps, lumps and unexplained bruising or cuts.
Brushing your pet’s fur also removes dead hair and redistributes natural oils evenly. Take care not to pull on hair mats too much, as they will hurt your pet. Instead, cut the tangles off or take your furry friend to a professional groomer.