Unlike human beings who might criticize or betray us, our pets accept us without question. They are loving and loyal. Dogs and cats, their owners will tell you, offer great comfort and companionship because they simply want to be loved (and fed).
In return we love to be there for them and strive to help them be happy and healthy. There are many ways to do this other than petting, playing, and feeding them.
Here are a few ideas on how we can enrich the lives of our beloved furry companions:
Train your dog
Although we primarily think of dog training as something that makes life easier for the owner, it helps pets, too, by increasing their intelligence and developing their ability to relate to human beings a little better. Rewarding pets with dog treats when they learn a new skill is one way of keeping their attention and reinforcing their behavior.
Although puppies have a short attention span, you can begin training them when they are only 7 weeks of age. At that time, they can learn simple commands like “sit” and “stay” and “down.” More formal training is effective after about 6 months of age.
Play, walk, or provide adequate stimulation
A bored pet is an unhappy pet. When pets act out, like chew on shoes, it’s because they crave some type of stimulation. Dogs love to get their daily walks in and to have their chew toys handy. Cats, especially indoor cats, love to have a few toys, like boxes, cat trees, and toy mice.
Protect your pet’s health
Since an emergency trip to the vet can be expensive, you need to have emergency funds available. Pets may get into fights with other animals or become ill, and will need to be treated as soon as possible. Instead of waiting for an issue to occur, it’s best to create a financial plan. This might include creating an emergency pet fund or buying pet insurance. Plans for pet insurance are quite diverse, and it’s best to start these early as it can be difficult to insure a pet after it passes a certain age range. You can get coverage for a variety of health issues or just coverage for a major illness or accident.
Speaking of pet health, it’s important that you don’t neglect your pet’s dental health. Neglected dental health can often lead to bad breath and gum diseases. If you can’t get your pet to stay still long enough to put up with tooth brushing, you can try adding water additives or using dental chews. If a pet has particularly strong bad breath, it may be time to take them in for a dental examination and cleaning. Chronic bad breath could be a sign of a deeper underlying health issue.
Finally, actively work to prevent flea or tick infestations. One reason animals that go outdoors lick and scratch so much is because they are often infested by fleas and ticks, and these parasites even appear to get them during the cooler months of the year. Use flea and tick preventative measures to get rid of infestations.
Pets Keep You Healthy, Too
Pets do much more than make you feel better when you come home after a long day at work and greet you with a bark and wagging tail or meowing and purring. They can improve cardiovascular health and reduce high blood pressure.
In this regard, dogs have a better reputation for stimulating a measurable health improvement in their owners. Dr. Thomas Lee of the Harvard Heart Letter speculates that “People who have dogs live longer than people who have cats, and the assumption has been that dogs naturally cause their owners to be more active. The emotional benefits of having an affectionate creature are also one of the theories for why dog-lovers live longer.”