New Year’s resolutions are hard to stick to, but when you are responsible for someone else, namely a pet, it is important to keep them. Being a responsible pet owner takes work, but when the payoff is a happy, healthy member of the family, it’s worth it. It is always important to get professional advice as a pet owner. Dr. Jo Myers, a practicing veterinarian at Vetster recently shared New Year’s resolutions that every pet owner should make with us to help you make sure that Fido and Fluffy have a happier 2023.
Resolution One – Feed Your Pet Food That Will Keep Them at Healthy Weight and Won’t Make Them Sick
Sharing our lives with our pets is fulfilling in many ways, but sometimes we can end up sharing our less-than-healthy habits as well. When considering what and how to feed your pet, resolve to make decisions based on the real purpose food serves in their lives: nutrition. It’s human nature for us to attach all kinds of emotions to food, mistakenly thinking it’s how we show our pets we love them, prove that we’re good pet parents, or that eating makes them happy – but our pets don’t instinctively feel this way. They’re quick learners and often eager to manipulate our behavior but sharing our tendency to look at food through an emotional lens sets them up for a lifetime of health issues.
Show your pets you love them by providing them with social interaction, exercise, a stable routine, preventive health care, and a secure environment where they’re free to be the kind of animal they are. Dogs want to be a dog and cats want to be a cat, so let them. There is no need to give into their attempts to manipulate you into giving them more food than they need just because it makes you, as a pet owner, feel better. It might be easier to give a treat to a bored dog or cat who wants your attention than it is to exercise with them, but remember it’s up to you to avoid overfeeding them so they can stay healthy.
If you choose to share your food with your pets, be smart about it. Understand that a pet who is never fed from the table will never expect it or beg. They also won’t think you love them less. Acknowledge that sharing food is for you, not them, and avoid foods that are likely to make them sick. Eating anything unusual or rich can lead to an upset stomach, and the odds go up when the portions are larger. Avoid potentially dangerous foods like chocolate, sugar-free products with xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and leeks.
Set a goal in 2023 to stick with a nutritionally complete food and vow to stick to portions that allow them to stay at a healthy weight. Use treats only as needed for training, and show them you love them in other, healthier ways.
Resolution Two – Exercise Your Pet
Pets require exercise to remain healthy and happy, and they thrive when it’s provided as part of a daily routine they can count on. Resolving to create a daily habit of exercise and play will provide benefits for both of you! Some pets are naturally more active than others, but in general it’s difficult to provide a healthy pet with more exercise than they can handle. Most dogs are more tolerant of the cold than we are and would love nothing more than to get outside to run, smell things, see what’s going on around the block, and just be a dog.
Get out a toy and let your cat indulge their natural instincts to hunt and capture prey for several sessions a day. Exercising with your pet is one of the best ways to form a strong bond with them while also providing the added benefit of helping you both have a healthier lifestyle in the new year.
Resolution Three – Properly Socialize Your Pet
A properly socialized pet is a happy pet. Cats are marvelous, mysterious creatures who are often very particular about when, how, and who they interact with, and that’s exactly the way you should let them handle social situations. Don’t force cats into unwanted social interactions and always provide an opportunity to opt out and hide.
Dogs, on the other hand, will do better if they are taught manners for canine encounters and provided opportunities to practice them throughout their lives. Unfortunately, getting this right is complicated and bad experiences can reinforce more bad behavior. It’s easy for humans to misunderstand canine social cues and unintentionally end up making things worse.
As a pet owner, rely on trainers and behaviorists to teach you how to socialize your dog and understand their methods of communication. Don’t count on free-for-all interactions at boarding facilities, doggy daycares, or dog parks to teach and maintain canine social skills. Resolve in 2023 to educate yourself about canine behavior, communication, and training techniques so your dog will have the manners they need to allow you both to enjoy social encounters.
Resolution Four – Buy Your Pet Toys for Enrichment and Fun
Our pets thrive when they have daily opportunities to participate in instinctive activities that indulge their inner animal nature. Cats are hard-wired to be predators that hunt and chase. Dogs are social animals with a job to do. Toys can help pets exercise their minds and bodies by tapping into those instincts, and there are a variety of options available.
If your pet has long hours home alone, look into automatic interactive toys or toys that allow you to engage your pet remotely. Make a habit of spending at least five minutes playing with your pet when they greet you upon arriving home. If you work from home, both you and your pet will benefit in the new year if you take frequent breaks for a quick game with a toy.
Alternate Resolution – Let Your Pets be Pets, Not Little Humans
We all know it’s foolish and frustrating to try to fit a round peg into a square hole, yet we try to do this with our pets on a regular basis. The human-animal bond is extraordinary, but we need to keep an appropriate perspective on it. Remember that humans are humans and animals are animals. We shouldn’t lose sight of that and expect them to be little humans as they fill our need for companionship.
Dogs are happiest when they can be a dog and do dog things. Being burdened with the responsibility to make decisions or control our behavior all the time is tiresome for them. Cats similarly are happiest when they can do what comes naturally to them instead of what we want from them. Resolve in 2023 to learn more about your pets’ natural behavior and needs so that you, as a pet owner, can better provide for them.