When you have a pet, your main priority has got to be its health and happiness. There’s no one else who can take responsibility, and if you take some care over your pet’s well being you’ll have a better relationship and enjoy being a pet owner much more!
Registering at a Vet
One of the first things you need to do as a pet owner is find your local vet options, check the reviews, ask friends for recommendations, consult with fellow owners and find the right vet for your pet. It’s also worth checking on the emergency options, so you’re not stuck googling “24 hour vet near me” during a health crisis.
Providing healthcare for your pet is actually one of your obligations as an owner under the law – the UK’s Animal Welfare Act of 2006 requires owners to ensure their pets are protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease, and while miracles aren’t expected, it’s reasonable to seek that protection by ensuring they are registered with an appropriately trained vet.
Most pets benefit from exercise and play, though the right kind of exercise depends on the pet! Most dogs delight in nothing more than a long walk at your side, but if you try to take a cat for a walk on a lead you’ll be in for a difficult and possibly painful experience!
Even within a species, different individuals have different preferences: some dogs prefer sticks and some prefer balls, some cats like to play indoors and others like to roam outside. Pay attention to your pet’s personal preferences to make sure you’re providing the exercise and play that they really enjoy and benefit from!
It’s not just physical exercise. You need to provide mental stimulation and enrichment activities for your pet. Bored pets are often unhappy and stressed and this can manifest physically or in their behaviour (or both! Stressed parrots will often pluck out their own feathers, an undesirable behaviour with serious consequences for their health).
Providing toys is an important part of this kind of life enrichment, and again, they need to specific to the pet you have. Cat and dog toys can’t be used interchangeably, for example, and you should try to make sure you’re buying toys that play to your pet’s personal tastes, as you get to know them better. The most important thing you can do, though, is pay attention when your pets are bored, and play with them! Your undivided attention and a ball of screwed up newspaper will do more good than the most expensive toys given to a cat you otherwise ignore.
For many pets you can make feeding time a source of mental stimulation, whether it’s with feeding toys that make them work for the supper, similar to the way they have to hunt in the wild or, for animals like lizards feeding live food!