Having a pet is a big responsibility—it is a lifelong commitment to provide care for an animal. When you adopt a pet, you take on the welfare of an animal who will be solely dependent on you. Responsible pet ownership has many pillars that should not be overlooked when considering bringing a pet into your home and life.
The basics—food, water, and shelter: Your pet relies on you to provide these basic necessities of life. Not doing so is cruel and harmful. That means a healthy diet appropriate to your pet’s age and lifestyle; access to fresh clean water at all times, and a warm, comfy place to sleep. And while these basic necessities are needed to sustain life, these alone cannot deliver the best, fullest life possible for your pet.
Health care: Providing good health care for your pet is essential to their health and well-being. This means preventive care activities and care when unexpected health issues come up.
- Preventive care covers activities like regular check-ups, vaccinations, dental care, and preventive treatments for parasites like fleas, heartworm and ticks.
- The other aspect of health care is the unexpected events: an accident, injury, or illness that occurs. Being able to provide your pet with good veterinary care when the unexpected occurs, including treatment options, is something responsible pet owners need to plan for.
One of the best ways a responsible pet owner can prepare for the cost of their pet’s health care is to consider pet health insurance from a young age. Pet health insurance can ensure that no matter what happens to your pet, you can provide them with the best care without worrying about the associated costs.
Spay and neuter: For the vast majority of pets, the responsible thing to do is have your pet spayed or neutered at a young age. Having the procedure done young gives your pet the best chance of avoiding health issues such as mammary cancer or prostate disease, and ensures that your pet will not come home unexpectedly expecting.
Exercise: We all know exercise is good for our bodies and makes us feel better. The same is true for your pets. Daily exercise and activity help pets achieve a healthy body weight, maintain bone and muscle integrity, and provide mental stimulation. It also helps to avoid unwanted behaviors like chewing and improper elimination.
Training: Part of being a responsible pet owner is making sure your pet is properly trained. No one likes a large dog that jumps up on people, or a cat that hisses and swipes at guests. Pets need to learn what behaviors are acceptable, as well as good manners, control, and obedience. This includes proper socialization to a wide range of people, places and other animals. It is up to you as the owner to teach them these things by setting clear expectations and providing consistent feedback to reinforce lessons.
Identification: One of a pet owner’s worst fear is finding their pet has gone missing. While it may be difficult to teach a dog to not follow his nose through an open gate, you can do your best to make sure they can be returned to you. Have your pet microchipped, and make sure they always wear a collar with tags to make reuniting with them as easy as possible.
Quality of life: While it may seem easy to check items off a ‘to-do’ list of responsible pet ownership, one of the most important aspects of it is the quality of life you provide your pet. Affection, attention, and quality time: these things matter! Most pets are highly social creatures and crave human contact. YOU are their favorite person! They want to be around you, engage with you, snuggle with you—you are their human. The amount and type of attention and affection you give you pet will affect their emotional and mental state. Responsible pet owners know they need to prioritize devoted time to their pets every day.
Having a pet is a big responsibility. Going into it with awareness of what it takes—as well as the benefits that come with it—is something that will help pets everywhere.