So you’ve decided to add a furry companion to your life? By now you’ve prepared yourself for the responsibilities. (It’s a big commitment, not a fashion item, so please, if you don’t have the lifestyle to bring someone into your home, then don’t! It’s about quality of life—not quantity.) And now you’re ready for the joys of guardianship—finding the time, resources, and love to give to another. We applaud your decision, and this week, we are providing 10 tips to help your new relationship out:
1. It’s “animal,” not “thing.”
When you get a cat or a dog, commit to making this a lifelong, win-win relationship. Have him or her live in the house with you as part of the family, with regular meals, fresh water at all times, and plenty of love and attention.
There are many lovely animals available at shelters and rescue groups, so don’t go to breeders or pet shops—they’re just adding to the tragic companion animal overpopulation problem.
3. Practice animal birth control.
Have your animal spayed or neutered so that he or she will be less frustrated, less frustrating to you, and healthier. In addition, your new friend won’t add to the companion animal overpopulation problem. Take our spay and neuter pledge today!
4. A “family” doctor is key.
Find a veterinarian you respect and trust to give your animal good medical care. This means one who will never declaw your cat. Instead, have him or her show you how to clip your cat’s nails.
5. Be responsible. Take Fido to training classes and give him regular exercise. If you can’t come home at lunchtime, arrange for someone else to take him outside to relieve himself.
6. Say “No!” to abuse.
Never hit an animal—with your hand, a rolled-up newspaper, or anything else.
7. Keep your eye on them.
Never let any animal roam off-leash and unsupervised, never tie a cat outside, and never leave a dog tied or penned outside for long periods of time. It is vitally important to dogs and cats to be with their family—you!
8. Keep calm when they make a mistake.
Animals understand positive communication far better than negative. Praise them with exuberance when they behave well. They will soon begin to figure out how to get more of this “fun” attention.
9. Learn to talk to one another.
Keep in mind that most animals communicate subtly. Dogs say so much with their eyes. Cats’ little mews are questions or acknowledgments of their enjoyment of your attention or some other personal communication with you.
10. Remember that two’s company.
If your dog or cat has to be alone much of the day, you might consider adopting a second animal if you have the resources. Most dogs and cats can become fast friends. Introduce the animals to each other cautiously, and supervise them while they get acquainted.
In return for being so good to your animal or animals, they will give you a priceless reward—unconditional love.
By Ashley Fruno