How To Be A Responsible Pet Owner
We all want to be responsible pet owners, but what does the word “responsible” mean when applied to how we care for our beloved pets? No one is perfect, and there are always lessons to be learned on how to do things better on behalf of our furkids. 1. Believe in ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ When you adopt a pet, you are committing to care for the animal for its entire life. Now, we all know that life has a way of changing unexpectedly. Should your ability to care for your pet change, or if your pet has the potential to live for many decades (such as a parrot or tortoise), your responsibility should be to carefully plan who will be the next care provider for your pet. Acquiring a new pet is a major decision that should never be made impulsively. 2. Know it’s ‘For Better or Worse’ Just as in human relationships, commitment to a pet is to provide love and care “for better or for worse.” Undoubtedly, there will be struggles — delayed house training, separation anxiety, destroyed furniture, chronic health issues (no doubt, you can add to this list). When opening your home and your heart to an animal, be willing and prepared to invest the time, energy and financial resources necessary to successfully manage any rough spots. Such challenges are a normal part of life. Like us humans, animals can have faults as well. Despite my mother’s request to remove our nasty white cat, Sammy, from the household, I committed to keeping him knowing that he would be euthanized. And the old boy did mellow with age. 3. Guarantee food and shelter Perhaps the most obvious responsibility on this list, provision of the basic necessities of life, is an important one. Water and nutritious food are a must, as is protection from the elements. Given the choice, I firmly believe that the vast majority of dogs and cats would prefer to be housed indoors, living side-by-side with their favorite humans. From their perspective, a bed in the garage or a doghouse in the backyard is invariably a second choice. Cats do not miss what they do not know, and living indoors is a happy, content, and safe life for them. 4. Provide emotional nutrition The kitty who persistently meows at an unanswered door and the dog who is barking chained to a tree in the yard are both in heartbreaking, inhumane situations. The need for emotional nourishment is just as great (if not greater) than the need for what is in the food bowl. Every animal’s emotional needs are different, but every animal deserves to have their emotional needs fulfilled. Your responsibility is to recognize and fill such needs. Your pet craves your attention, just as much (if not more) as you crave theirs. Walks with your dog and playtime with your cat makes their day, and yours. 5. Commit to preventive health care There is a rather long “to do” list when it comes to proactively preserving your pet’s health. Protection from harm, balanced nutrition, exercise and regular checkups are a good start to any list. It is encouraged that you work with your veterinarian to create your own “to do” list for your pets. 6. Practice responsible parenting I appeal to you to do whatever it takes to prevent your pet from reproducing. If you are not convinced this is an important issue, I encourage you to visit your local animal shelter or Petfinder.com to see for yourself how many pets are currently homeless. Spay and neuter! 7. Ensure your pet’s safe return Should the unthinkable happen and your pet becomes lost, the likelihood of a happy ending is greatly enhanced if he or she has been microchipped (and the microchip registry has your current contact information). Another critical safeguard is a collar sporting a current identification tag. 8. Create a good citizen Behavioral issues are the number-one reason dogs and cats are relinquished to shelters and other humane organizations. Re-homing such animals is a huge challenge, and the unfortunate end result is often euthanasia. Do the work early on to create a model citizen by participating in training classes or one-on-one work with a trainer. You and your pet will both benefit. Training is a commitment, and it is work. It is also time spent with your dog, and you will reap the rewards. I love training with my dog, attending classes, seminars, dog shows, etc. And my dog loves it as well, because he is getting my undivided time and attention. What furkid doesn’t want that? 9. Advocate for your pet’s health Whether selecting a vaccination protocol or making a life-or-death decision, your active involvement as a medical advocate for your pet is imperative. You may not have realized it, but at the time you acquire your pet, you accepted “power of attorney” to make medical decisions on your pet’s behalf. Yes, your veterinarian’s recommendations are important, and he or she is an important member of your pet’s health care team, but you are “team captain” because no one knows your pet as well as you do. They depend on you to make the right decision on their behalf. 10. Plan for end-of-life care Unfortunately, sick or aged animals rarely simply pass away peacefully and comfortably in their sleep. In most cases, it is incumbent upon their human family members to decide upon and create an end of life for the pet (whether via euthanasia or hospice care) that is managed humanely. If you share your life with pets, you will undoubtedly find yourself faced with this all-important responsibility, and it is up to you to make sure your animal is as comfortable, free of pain, and well-loved as possible. Oftentimes the ultimate act of love that you can give your pet is to end its suffering. I have faced this many times throughout my life. As sad and painful as it is to say goodbye, I have never doubted my decision. Dog bless. Resource: Dr. Nancy Kay DVM/Vetstreet.com. Judy Endo writes about pets. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.