Owning a pet can be a very pleasurable experience but it can also present difficulties. Much depends on how you go about it. While feeding, grooming, and playing might sound like everything you need to cover, there is considerably more to pet ownership.
Being a pet owner is easy – the components of pet ownership are simply you and your pet. Being a good pet owner takes a bit of effort. Not only do you need to maintain a work-life balance (because you’re not much good to your pet if all you do is work), you also have to commit fully to understanding the needs of a creature who does not, and cannot, communicate in the same way as another human.
When it comes to being a good pet owner, you can get the ball rolling by asking yourself four very important questions.
1. What Does My Pet Look Like?
I know, you’re shaking your head and thinking “He looks like a cat!” or “He kinda looks like that dog in ‘Turner and Hooch’!” Actually, what I’m talking about here is how much grooming your pet is likely to need. Does he look like a shabby (but adorable) mess? If so, you can be a better pet owner by learning a bit about grooming.
On this note, there are a few dos and don’ts that you need to consider.
Dos of Grooming
a) Regular Grooming
This is obvious. I assume that you keep yourself clean and well-groomed, andyour pet deserves similar treatment. Depending on the coat, you might need to groom every couple of weeks, or every couple of days. A long-haired dog or cat is going to require more frequent grooming than a short-haired variety. By the same token, a “couch potato” pet is going to need less grooming than one who is often outdoors and getting into all manner of dirt.
Regular grooming isn’t just about combing out mats and tangles. It also provides the opportunity to examine your pet’s coat and skin for parasitic infestations and skin irritation. If you’re doing your own grooming, it’s also an opportunity to form a closer bond with your pet. If you’re using a professional groomer, it’s a great way to provide an environment in which your pet can meet humans other than you, which is great for socialization.
Do groom regularly.
b) Appropriate Equipment
For those planning to bring the DIY into the equation, be sure to take the time to choose the right equipment. It might mean laying out a bit of cash to start with but in the long run you will save money by avoiding frequent tips to the groomer.
Getting the appropriate equipment isn’t enough, though. You need to know how to groom. For instance, some dog breeds have double-coated fur and may require different combs or brushes for the top coat and the undercoat. If you’re not sure how to groom your pet, a pro can show you how it should be done. I highly recommend using a professional groomer for the first session.
Do invest in the proper equipment, and do see a pro for the first visit if you’re not sure how to proceed.
Don’ts of Grooming
Impatience is not your friend. When it comes to grooming your pet, getting the job done as quickly as possible is not the way to go.
Imagine if you were having your hair styled, or getting a mani/pedi, and the vibe you were getting was something along the lines of “It’s almost time for my break and I just need to get this over with so I can go for coffee!” If your pet is new to being groomed, and all that’s on your mind is getting it over with, your pet will pick up on that and become anxious. Slow and steady is how it’s done.
Another bad thing about rushing is that it can lead to injury. Say you’re clipping your pet’s nails and because you’re in a hurry you cut into the quick. Believe me when I tell you that your pet will never again trust you anywhere near his toes.
Don’t hurry. Take your time and create a positive experience for you and your pet. For that matter, if you consider grooming your pet to be a job that has to be completed in record time, as opposed to an experience that brings you and your pet closer emotionally, why do you even want a pet?
b) Bathing Too Often
Excessive bathing can be harmful. It can dry out your pet’s skin and lead to serious irritations.
If your dog has gotten into something nasty, by all means give him a bath. If your cat has gotten dirty, you can try to give him a bath, but don’t count on much success – he’ll probably lick himself clean anyway.
Many pets go through life never being bathed. If your pet does need a bath use an approved pet shampoo and make sure to stay away from the eye area.
Don’t bathe if it’s not warranted. In other words, bathe if necessary, but don’t necessarily bathe.
2. How Does My Pet Behave?
Nobody likes a badly-behaved pet. If your pet has bad manners, your family and friends won’t like him. Strangers on the street won’t like him. Your veterinarian won’t like him. You might even end up asking yourself if you really like your pet. When it comes to behavior, training is the key.
Be it teaching your dog to not jump on people, or training your cat to avoid soiling in unnecessary places, you are going a long way to becoming a good pet owner. If you have a new pet and want to know how to go about it, keep reading.
How to Train Your Pet to Behave
- Be Prepared: Training your pet requires that you train your own mind first. Know that there will be lapses and umpteen failed attempts. Sometimes it will not feel worth it, but trust me – once you get the hang of it, you’ll take pleasure in training, and you’ll feel an amazing sense of accomplishment every time your pet “gets it.”
- Consistency is Key: Training your pet requires constant persistence and consistency. You cannot expect your pet to learn how to behave in a matter of hours or even days. It can take a lot of time and concentrated effort, but with persistence, you’ll get the job done.
- Keep it Simple: Training sessions are supposed to be simple yet effective. Try not to complicate things too much or too often. Start with the basics – sit, stay, lie down, and so on – and work with them every day.
- Basic Scheduling: This can be helpful when it comes to getting your pet used to training. All it means is selecting a time of day that’s best for both you and your pet. Maybe you want to train first thing in the morning? Or in the evening after your pet has been fed? It just means that you’re choosing a point during your day-to-day activities where your pet can say to himself, “Okay, it’s time to get to work!” A little consistency can go a long way to getting your pet’s mind ready for training.
Don’t expect your pet to behave properly if you’re not training properly.
3. Am I Feeding My Pet Correctly?
When you’re not eating properly, do you work effectively? Do you feel energetic? Do you greet the day with a “Hey world, let’s see what you’ve got for me today” attitude?
I thought not. How your body behaves has much to do with how it’s fed and it’s the same for your pet. Proper diet is essential and if you’re going to be a good pet owner you have to consider the following when feeding your pet.
- Correct Quantity: It’s important to avoid overfeeding. This will make your pet slow and sluggish, and can also lead to other health complications. By the same token, underfeeding can lead to lack of energy and even organ malfunction. If you are in doubt as to how much to feed your pet, there are any number of sites online that can tell you the appropriate quantities for your pet’s breed and size. If you’re still in doubt, ask your veterinarian.
- Balanced Diet: A proper diet includes the right percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients. Again, you can find the appropriate percentages online or ask your vet.
- Avoid Junk: Remember that time you ate a pint of ice cream, a package of Oreos, and a can of Pringles, and called it dinner? It didn’t kill you, right? You just said to yourself, “Okay, I ate a lot of junk, but I’ll do better tomorrow.” The thing is, if you feed your dog junk, he might not live to see tomorrow. Your dog’s digestive system is very different from yours, and things that you can process with little difficulty could be lethal for your dog. The best diet for your dog is good quality dry dog food.
Feed your pet properly – the same way you would feed yourself if you were actually doing it the way you said you were going to do it come the New Year.
4. Do I Care About the Future of My Pet?
You have spent a great deal of time and money on your pet. You doubtless want to keep him around for a long time. So assuming that you’re devoting the time to grooming and feeding your pet properly, what else can you do?
You can consider pet insurance. If you have questions like “what is pet insurance” or “how do I acquire pet insurance”, you can easily educate yourself as to what it is with a quick search or two. Much like health insurance for yourself, pet insurance works in a similar fashion.
Veterinary care for pets can be horrendously expensive – in the thousands of dollars for some surgeries, just to use an example. Many pet owners take the position of “I can afford to buy the dog and I can afford routine veterinary care” but they don’t plan for emergencies. Then they find out that their dog needs a hip replacement that’s going to cost $6,000. Or worse, a double hip replacement. You do the math.
Peace of Mind
Like the health insurance you buy for yourself, or the homeowner’s policy you buy in case, heaven forbid, you have a house fire, pet insurance is something you purchase in the hope that you will never have to use it.
Even the most expensive pet insurance will usually work out to far less per month than veterinary treatment for serious illnesses or injuries. Some policies will even pay a certain amount for expenses incurred when looking for lost pets – advertising, rewards, and so on.
Pet insurance will not pay out, though, if your pet injures someone. That would come under your homeowner’s liability insurance.
Pet insurance will also not cover routine procedures like checkups and vaccinations. You’re on your own with this but if you make sure that your pet has regular checkups and his vaccinations are up to date, you will be doing much to ensure that your pet has a long and happy life without need for veterinary intervention.
Sometimes it’s hard to quantify peace of mind. However, I can tell you that I, and and most people I know, sleep a lot easier when they have pet insurance in place.
Pet insurance buys peace of mind, plain and simple.
Making the Best Use of Your Money
The best reason for buying pet insurance is simply this – you spend a bit now to avoid spending a lot later. Usually for less than $50.00 per month, you can insure your pet against just about anything that could happen to him. So about $600 per year could indemnify you against that $12,000 double hip replacement, $7,000 for bloat or cancer, $200 per month to treat diabetes… well, you get the idea.
Insuring your pet can save you a lot of money in the long run. If you care about the future of your pet, I highly recommend purchasing pet insurance.
Having a pet can be the best, most fulfilling thing you’ll ever do. A pet loves you no matter what’s going on in your life. Pets care about you. However, it’s your job to care about them equally well, and to think long and hard before you say to yourself “Yes, I am ready to commit to a pet.” You have to be willing to groom, to feed properly, to ensure good veterinary care, and most important, simply to LOVE.
It’s not rocket science and it’s not hard. Groom effectively, feed properly, and give all the love you can. Your pet will love you at least as much as you love him. He’ll be your best friend and playmate when you’re happy, you’re best comforter when you’re sad, and your best friend forever.
So are you ready to be the best pet owner you can be? I hope so. And I wish you and your pet much happiness.