Pets are special creatures that provide many social and emotional benefits to their owners. Even hospitals, nursing homes, and other living facilities have discovered that pets enhance the quality of their patients’ lives and can even help them live longer, more productive lives. Elderly people who live alone find great companionship from their pets, and families who have small children can teach their children to be gentle and compassionate by interacting with their pets. Pets are a unique gift to their owners because they have the ability to give unconditional love. However, pets must live in environments that provide safety and care to keep them healthy and happy. Consequently, would-be pet owners must consider several factors before owning a pet.
Dogs – though dogs vary widely by breed, all dogs need lots of attention, time to exercise, and plenty of room to roam. Some breeds are natural shepherds, which makes them great for 1 person, but some breeds like Border collie, have the sheep-herding instinct in their blood. This means that when a child roams too far from the rest of the “herd,” the collie will try to get it back. How does it do it with the sheep? It bites them. This may result in grave injuries to children.
Cats – Intelligent and individual, cats will be fine with less supervision, though they still need your love and time to keep from acting out.
Hamsters, Gerbils, Ferrets, and Rodents – Economical and short-living, rodents make good first pets. They often, however, have strong odors.
Fish – Fish need careful monitoring and care to thrive, and won’t cuddle anytime soon. Think of having a fish like having a garden.
Lizards – Happy on their own and generally easy to care for, lizards do not offer much affection and can be difficult to diagnose when sick.
Birds – Birds can be incredibly messy and are often loud. They are also expensive and occasionally temperamental, especially bigger birds like parrots.
Living space is essential for your pet to have a safe place to sleep and go to the bathroom. If you live in a small urban apartment, you may need to choose a pet that can thrive in small places such as a small dog, a cat, or a fish. The larger the pet, the more living space it will need. If you have a large home and yard you can choose from horses, to large dogs and even chickens.
Different pets require different types and quantities of food. Providing the right type of food for your pet is essential to their health. Even babies animals require different types and quantities of food. For example a puppy or kitten have different nutritional needs than a full grown dog or cat. Elderly cats or dogs may need soft wet food as opposed to the dry crunchy foods of the puppy or kitten. Never feed your pet human food as it could cause grave harm to their digestive tract. Over feeding your pet is as harmful as underfeeding them. Overfeeding can cause obesity, heart problems, as well as urinary and gastro-intestinal problems. Just like humans, all pets need clean cool water every day.
Just as humans need cleanliness to remain healthy, pets need to be kept clean and well groomed. Cats need a litter pan that must be cleaned at least once a day. If you are physically unable to clean a litter pan, you can actually teach your cat to used ‘puppy pads’ in their pans. This is easier for kittens to learn but it is not impossible for older cats to learn. Simply, line the litter pan with a puppy pad and then cover about one quarter of the puppy pad with clean litter. Each day reduce the amount of litter in the pan until all the litter is gone. The cat will continue to use the pad as if the pan was filled with clean litter. If you choose a dog, you will need to teach him/her to use puppy pads, doggy doors, or wait to be walked. Fish tanks, bird cages, hamster cages or rabbit hutches should be cleaned at least once a week. Bathing in lukewarm and brushing your pet is also very important.
Exercising your pet should be relaxing for both you and your pet. It helps them to burn off stored energy and it gives you a chance to connect with your special friend. Whether it is throwing a ball at the park or teasing them with a ball of yarn, you will feel a special connection with your animal. Regular exercise is an important part of keeping your pet healthy. Without it, they can become overweight and more susceptible to illness. Depending on the type of pet you choose, you must provide adequate exercise for them. For example, horses need large open spaces to run, or for you to ride them. Dogs need daily walks, and really enjoy playing fetch with their masters, hamsters need time to roll around in their balls.
Be sure to bring your pet to the vet soon after adopting it. Just like humans, pets need regular check-ups to spot problems before they become serious conditions. Use your first visit to discuss how often you should schedule check-ups and your pet’s dietary and medical needs. Make sure that your pet has all the proper vaccines and other preventative medication suggested by your veterinarian, such as heart worm pills for some dogs. Ask your vet what symptoms to look for if your pet gets sick. Spay or neuter dogs and cats to prevent pet over-population. Record your vet’s number as well as the number of a veterinary hospital in case of emergencies.
Knowing your pet’s normal behavior is very important; if they are sick or injured, they will often act unusually, such as sleeping more, going off their food, etc. If they begin to act oddly, check them for any injuries and keep an eye on their food and water intake; if they stop eating or drinking, or they have obvious wounds that are concerning you, then take them to the vet. Regular veterinarian visits are not only good for your pet, but can be good for your wallet as well. Early detection of illness, like food allergies and urinary tract infections can help prevent or cure these problems, before they become serious or extremely expensive. Many times homeopathic remedies can be used in the prevention and cure of these types of illness and for overall natural pet health.
Many pets enjoy the great outdoors, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a safe shelter when outside! Protect dogs, cats, chickens, and more from the weather – including extreme hot and cold temperatures – by putting kennels or houses with roofs in your backyard. Fresh water should also be kept outside at all times for pets when they’re not indoors. You may also want to bring your pets indoors when really bad weather hits, or once it gets dark. Predators like coyotes tend to lurk at night, and they might find your pets as suitable prey. Keep your pet safe (and close!) by bringing them indoors with you. Also, teach young children how to handle the pet. And, always to be gentle and loving when touching the pet. You can prepare small children for handling the pet by practicing feeding a doll.
Be sure to budget for the care of your pet. Buy the necessities before you bring your pet home. Also, consider that according to the ASPCA the annual cost of care for a pet can be:
Dogs- $600-$900, depending on size
Rodents-$300-$650, depending on size
Fish – $40
Small Birds – $400
Large Birds (Parrots, Macaws- $700-$1,200
That being said, caring for a pet does not have to be prohibitively expensive. There are many discount houses that provide products that your pets need at deeply discounted prices. See below this article for some discount merchants.
Give your pet lots of love. Though this is certainly true of dogs and cats, even fish and lizards require dedication and love to really thrive. Animals are social beings much like humans, and you need to set aside time to play with your pets so they get exercise and mental stimulation. Love is what your relationship with your pet has to be about. Show him or her your affection by petting and playing. Your pet will be a member of your family, so treat it like one. A good cuddle will do the both of you good. Pets respond to the tone of people’s voices as well as touch.
The love of a pet is a two-way interaction and can rub off on everybody in the house. Having a pet is a fun and rewarding experience. You get to enjoy the companionship of other creatures aside from humans, and depending on what kind of pet you have, each has a different kind of personality — some are bubbly, some are shy, and some are even grumpy! No matter what their personality is, your pet is special to you and you should always find them amazing.
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