By Dr. Gary Weitzman
DVM President and CEO, San Diego Humane Society
Whether you’ve had a pet for years or you’ve just adopted your first furry companion, the best way to keep both humans and pets happy is to learn about proper pet care. Both animals and humans require the same basic things for a content, healthy life: nutritious food, fresh water and a comfortable place to sleep, along with intangible things like enrichment, love and compassion.
Here are four tips to help you be an amazing pet parent.
- Choose the right pet for your family.
Ask yourself some honest questions. Do you want a running companion or just a buddy to watch TV with you? Who will clean up after a pet and how much mess can you tolerate? How much time do you spend at home? How much space do you have? If you have children, how will a pet integrate into your home life? Asking these questions will help determine what kind of pet will be happiest in your home and bring you the greatest joy.
- Understand your pet’s body language and behaviors.
Many natural dog or cat behaviors, such as barking to sound the alarm about a possible intruder or urinating to mark their territory may serve a purpose in the wild, but they aren’t compatible with our human lifestyle. When your pet is bored, or there isn’t clear communication between you two, they may resort to these behaviors. Learning simple training techniques will improve your relationship with your pet and provide much-needed mental stimulation too.
- Prioritize pet first aid.
As soon as you bring a new pet home, locate the nearest emergency animal hospital and learn some basic pet first aid. First aid comes in handy when your pet has a minor injury that can be treated at home and can even save your pet’s life in the case of something more severe. It’s also important to recognize signs of common illnesses and injuries, so your pet can be treated as soon as possible.
- Keep physical and mental health top of mind.
Consult with your veterinarian on the best type of food for your pet. Give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. For dogs, this could be long walks with plenty of sniffing and games of fetch, while for cats it could be climbing, pouncing on toys and chasing “prey” (like a feather wand). Groom, bathe and brush your pet at home to keep them clean and stay aware of bumps, cuts or other issues. Finally, schedule check-ups with your veterinarian at least once a year and keep up with all vaccinations.
You can find even more detailed answers to any pet question you may have in “The Pet Lover’s Guide: How to raise happy, healthy, and well-behaved dogs and cats,” a new bookazine I just published with National Geographic. It’s available on Amazon, or at any retailer where magazines are sold. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will benefit San Diego Humane Society (SDHS)! Additionally, SDHS offers free virtual classes that provide socialization and training tips for puppies and kittens. Visit sdhumane.org for up-to-date offerings.
Knowledge is power, and your pet will benefit as well as share a deeper bond when you learn everything you can to be the best pet owner you can be.