How to Start Your Pet’s Year Off On the Right Paw
Losing weight, getting your home organized, learning to knit—the new year inspires many of us to tackle one (or several) personal goals, and that goes for pet parents, too! Becoming a better mom or dad to your pet is a worthy and attainable goal. Whether your fur baby is a feline or canine, old or young, big or small, there are pet New Year’s resolutions you can set to make his or her life happier and healthier. We went to Julie Bank, pet expert and CEO of the Pasadena Humane Society, in Pasadena, CA, one of the oldest humane societies in Los Angeles County, for her insight on goals for New Year’s pets that we should set for our four-legged family members.
Pet New Year’s Resolutions
Get Your Pet Spayed or Neutered
Let’s start with an important responsibility of pet parenthood: spaying and neutering your pet. By spaying and neutering your pet, you are contributing to the solution of the massive number of unwanted pets. Anytime an unaltered pet gets loose, they run the risk of accidental breeding, which leads to unwanted litters, so spaying and neutering your pet is a great pet goal that helps reduce strays and aids in population control within your community. “It also reduces nuisance behaviors, such as roaming, spraying and yowling, as well as the risk of certain cancers,” says Bank. So if you haven’t taken this step, make this pet New Year’s resolution number 1. (Indoor cats are not excluded here. Even the most content indoor kitty can get out of the house.)
Invest in an ID tag for your pet and microchip your dog or cat, advises Bank. “If your pet gets lost, identification is her best ticket home,” she says. A microchip is one of the best ways to find a lost pet. Every veterinarian office, shelter and rescue organization has a microchip scanner, so as long as your pet’s microchip is registered to you, you are improving the chances that you will find your pet. Again, like spaying or neutering, this goes for indoor cats as well.
Step up Your Cat’s Scratching Options
A top pet New Year’s resolution is to redirect destructive scratching from furniture to designated cat scratching products. “Scratching is a normal part of your cat’s behavior. Be sure to give them a variety of scratching options,” urges Bank. This may well be the year you stop shooing your cat away from your favorite armchair, and instead set her up with appropriate outlets for her natural scratching instinct like a scratching post. Some cats prefer vertical cat scratchers, while others fancy horizontal ones. There are also a variety of materials to pick from, such as cardboard, carpet, sisal and wood. “Try a few to see which your cat likes best,” says Bank.
Make Your Dog’s Walk More Comfortable
“Many dogs pull on their leash,” says Bank. If your canine friend likes to pull while on your daily walks, a great dog New Year’s resolution is to practice leash training with your dog. One way to start down the path to more leisurely walks is to get a special harness designed to help with persistent pullers. “Rather than opting for a choke chain or prong collar, try a no-pull harness,” suggests Bank. Petsafe offers an Easy Walk harness as well as a Gentle Leader headcollar that are designed to help with pulling. This swap can make your daily walks more enjoyable for you as well.
Make a Point to Pamper
Maybe the perfect cat or dog New Year’s resolution is to make a renewed effort to regularly and thoroughly groom your pet. “Regular grooming is an important part of pet ownership,” affirms Banks. For dogs, this includes regular baths, coat maintenance care, nail trimming and teeth brushing. “Kitties generally groom themselves, but still need regular brushing and nail trimming,” reminds Banks. If you decide to groom your cat yourself, you may find brushing her teeth challenging! Follow our tips on how to get the job done easily. Whether you take your pet to a professional, or do it yourself at home, keeping up with grooming will keep your pet happy and healthy all throughout the new year.
Get Your Pet Moving More
Consider making more exercise one of your pet goals as well. Obesity in pets is a common problem that can cause a variety of health issues. “Many dog lovers know that dogs need regular walks, but cats also need playtime to stay happy and healthy,” says Bank. Even if your pet is at a healthy weight, it’s still a good idea to work regular exercise into your pet’s life. So resolve to exercise your pet regularly to meet your pet goals next year, whether by promising your pooch a weekly date at the dog park, or picking up a feather toy for your kitty to chase around.
Squash That Bad Habit for Good With Pet Training
Does your dog bark incessantly at anyone who passes your house? Jump up on every guest who comes through the door? Dog training as a dog New Year’s resolution helps him as much as it helps you. Dogs, not unlike children, feel more secure and happy knowing what to expect through well-established boundaries and routines. If hiring a professional trainer isn’t an option right now, consider consulting Cesar’s Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog by Cesar Millan, a classic dog training guide. A treat as a reward for unlearning bad habits is the fun part of training, for you and your pet! Hill’s Science Diet Soft & Chewy Dog Training Treats are made with real chicken, and are the perfect bite-size nibbles to reward good behavior.
Build a Relationship With a Veterinarian
Too many pet parents use their vets on an as-needed basis. If you only visit your pet’s doctor when there’s a problem, your pet is missing out on having a valuable health advocate in his corner. “Regular vet checkups are key,” reminds Bank. “A vet who knows you and your pet well can help you select a high-quality food for your pet, and determine how much of it to feed on a daily basis. Preventative care is an essential part of keeping your pet healthy and tracking their well-being, so if there is a change in their normal behavior, your vet will be better able to identify the issue. Making vet visits a habit will also ensure your pet’s vaccines are kept current, which is critical, asserts Bank.
Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub.