The old year ticks away in the background as pet owners all over Chicago and the surrounding counties plan parties or other New Year’s Eve events. By New Year’s Day, many of these people will also be thinking up resolutions: ways they pledge to try to change their behavior or attitudes to make themselves or their experience of life better in 2012. Read on for four suggested resolutions to help your pets have a better life next year.
1. Balance food and exercise.
Buy appropriate food for your pet’s age and general health—and feed amounts appropriate for the animal’s size and activity level. Just as with your own weight issues, it’s easier to keep your pet at a healthy weight by feeding the right amount to begin with than to have to restrict food and step up the exercise to take those excess pounds off.
2. Limit the treats.
This goes hand-in-hand with balancing food and exercise, but also impinges on training. If you’re feeding lots of treats to train a younger or newly adopted pet, you should (a) get very small, tasty treats and (b) cut back on the regular meals to offset the calories from training rewards. Yes, your pet will eat every treat you offer, but so will a child. Would you let your children fill up on candy and chips every day? Probably not. Why? Because kids will either not eat healthy food after a day of treats (“I’m full!”) or eat the treats and all their meals, with the result they soon begin to resemble the Goodyear blimp. And training ornot, recognize that physical affection and warm tone of voice can be just as effective a reward as food.
3. Provide appropriate exercise opportunities.
Larger animals, such as dogs—or horses—come with significant exercise requirements. You can look at your pet’s exercise need as a chore—or you can make it an occasion to fulfill your own exercise needs, walking your dog(s) or riding your horse(s). Smaller, caged animals may either get exercise during “out of the box” play time (ferrets love to explore new places} or by creative use of in-cage toys and structures: tunnels, ramps, etc. Making the animal change levels between food, sleep area and litter box or equivalent makes for better exercised animals as well as keeping the food and bedding areas cleaner.
4. Keep your animals well groomed.
Most animals will groom themselves, but all can benefit from regular care and some need special help. Long-coated cats and dogs would be prime examples of this, as would horses with long mane and tail … especially if they wander near burdock plants! Caged animals, whether ferrets, birds or lizards, may need claws clipped to keep them short enough, as may dogs (especially smaller dogs or dogs who don’t run on hard surfaces much—or whose owners have new wood floors). Long claws not only scratch the people caring for these animals, but can grow long enough to interfere with the animal’s ability to function fully. Birds may also appreciate help removing the keratin sheaths from new feathers.
As you start the new year, be sure your resolution-making includes considering your pet’s welfare.