Having a pet is a big responsibility—it is a lifelong commitment to care for an animal. When you adopt a pet, you are undertaking the welfare of an animal who will be solely dependent on you. Responsible pet ownership has many pillars that should not be overlooked when considering bringing a pet into your home and life.
The basics- food, water, and shelter: your pet relies on you to provide these basic necessities of life. To fail to provide these necessities is cruel and harmful. That means a good, healthful diet appropriate to your pet’s age and lifestyle; access to fresh clean water at all times, and a warm, comfy place to sleep. And while these basic necessities are needed to sustain life, there is much more that contributes to giving your pet the best, fullest life possible, not just a basic one.
Healthcare: providing good health care for your pet is essential to their health and well-being. This means preventive care activities as well as care when unexpected health issues come up. Preventive care covers activities like regular vet check-ups, vaccinations, dental care and preventive treatments for parasites like fleas, heartworm, and ticks. The other aspect of health care is being prepared for the unexpected events: an accident, injury, or illness that occurs. Being able to provide your pet with good veterinary care when the unexpected occurs, including treatment options, is something responsible pet owners need to plan for. One of the best ways a responsible pet owner can prepare for the cost of their pet’s health care is to consider pet health insurance from a young age. Pet health insurance can ensure that no matter what happens to your pet, you can provide them with the best care without worrying about the associated costs.
Spay and neuter: with the number of pets in shelters, for the vast majority of pets the responsible thing to do is have your pet spayed or neutered at a young age. Having the procedure done young gives your pet the best chance of avoiding health issues such as mammary cancer or prostate disease, and ensures that your pet will not come home unexpectedly expecting.
Exercise: we all know exercise is good for our bodies and makes us feel better, and the same is true for your pets. Daily exercise and activity are good both physically and mentally for your pet, maintaining bone and muscle integrity as well as mental stimulation. It also helps to avoid unwanted behaviors like chewing and improper elimination.
Training: part of being a responsible pet owner is making sure your pet is properly trained. No one likes a large dog that jumps up on people or a cat that hisses and swipes at guests. Pets need to learn what behaviors are acceptable and which are not, as well as good manners, control, and obedience. This includes proper socialization to a wide range of people, places, and other animals. It is up to you as the owner to teach them these things be setting clear expectations and providing consistent feedback to reinforce lessons.
Identification: one of a pet owner’s worst fear is finding their pet has gone missing. While it may be difficult to teach a dog to not follow his nose through an open gate, you can do your best to make sure they can be returned to you, should that happen. Have your pet microchipped, and make sure they are always wearing a collar with tags to make reuniting them with you as easy as possible.
Quality of life: while it may seem easy to check items off a ‘to-do’ list of responsible pet ownership, one of the most important aspects of it if the quality of life you provide to your pet. These are the things that cannot be bought or paid for but are the things that mean the most to your pet: affection, attention, and quality time. Most pets are highly social creatures and crave human contact. YOU are their favorite person! They want to be around you, talk to you, snuggle with you- you are the main living creature they interact with. The amount and type of attention and affection you give you pet will affect their emotional and mental state. Responsible pet owners know they need to devote time every day to their pets and make it a priority to do so.
Having a pet is a big responsibility, but not one that should feel unpleasant or obligatory. With all the wonderful things pets being to our lives, including unconditional love and affection, the least we can do as responsible owners is to make sure they are well looked after in all aspects of their lives. That way, we can enjoy their company for as long as possible.