While you might think you know all there is to know about caring for your pet, here are five things you may not have thought about.
RESPECT THEIR SPACE
When you welcome a pet into your home, it’s important to think about how the environment might impact them. While you may love the smell of lemon-scented candles, your furry friend may not be such a fan! A dog’s sense of smell is around 40 times greater than ours, so try and keep strong smells in their environment to a minimum. Pets will also benefit from a quiet area where they can relax and just chill out, away from stimulating noises, smells and touching – this is especially important in open-plan apartments and houses.
‘WALKIES’ AREN’T JUST FOR DOGS
Most dog owners are really good with making time to walk their dogs, but have you considered the exercise needs of other types of pets? Exercise is important for cats, too, although you may struggle to get them to walk on lead! Wand toys are a great idea for our feline companions, as they help them to use their predation skills to stalk and hunt the feathered stick. Rabbits, guinea pigs and other furry friends all need time for exercise, too.
Physical exercise on its own isn’t enough – you want to make sure your pets are using their brains! Spend time training your pets using positive reinforcement, and offer their food in puzzle feeders or feeding toys so that they need to think about how to get to their food. Many animals will also benefit from more intensive training, such as agility training, or even learning some clever party tricks.
REMEMBER, PETS AREN’T ACTUALLY PEOPLE
Anthropomorphising – or applying human traits to animals – is something that many pet owners do, and can in some ways help us to connect with them. However, while it may be tempting to think of your pets as small, furry humans, it’s important to remember they aren’t actually people! Some pets can find human behaviour like bear hugs or kissing on the face stressful, and giving your pets human treats (including scraps from the dinner table!) can lead to obesity and associated health concerns. Attaching human reasons to dog behaviour – such as saying a dog has chewed up the furniture because he was mad for being left alone – can also hinder the effectiveness of any training. You need to try and understand your pet’s behaviour from their point of view, not yours.
PETS ARE FOR LIFE
Pets play an incredibly important role in our lives, and will bring a profound sense of connection and companionship to you and your family. However, owning a pet is a big responsibility. So for your sake, and theirs, make sure you’ve considered all of the above issues very carefully before bringing a four-legged friend home.
Dr Julie Ashton is a practising veterinary surgeon and animal behaviourist, who works with the Delta Society Australia, a national not-for-profit organisation which believes that pets remarkably improve our quality of life and leave a lasting paw print...