They may not be related to us by flesh and blood, but we cherish our pets like they’re our tiny, fluffy children all the same. Pet care presents a unique set of challenges, but with the right strategies, you can have the happiest pet on the block. If you’re looking for ways to show your feline or canine companions some love, here are some easy steps you can take to become a better parent to your pet.
Try An Exercise Accessory (For Both Of You).
Keeping your pet in good shape usually requires getting a little exercise yourself. If you ever feel yourself struggling to get off the couch and walk your dog around the block, try this: Invest in a wearable fitness tracker for you and your pet.
By setting daily activity goals for the both of you, you’ll feel more motivated to get outside—even on your laziest days. Some pet-friendly fitness trackers also monitor sleeping patterns and generate reports of your pet’s overall health.
Measure Out Meals.
It’s hard to walk down a pet food aisle without being bombarded by labels claiming a brand is the best option for your pet. But just because a product is vegetarian, grain-free, or certified organic doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Portion size and calorie density are vital parts of your pet’s diet that many owners pay little attention to. For instance, more expensive brands that replace grains with meat products claim to be healthier but are usually higher in calories and should be portioned out accordingly. Instead of eyeballing your pet’s serving sizes at mealtimes, find a pet calorie calculator online, which you can use to calculate the exact amount of calories your pet should be consuming each day. Use this information and the nutritional facts on the back of the dog food package to measure out the perfect amount of food for them.
Organize Play Dates Online.
Socialization is important for kids to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, and the same goes for your pets. Especially if your dog is still a puppy, you’ll want to introduce them to unfamiliar people, animals, environments, and experiences early on. If you’re fairly new to your area or if you don’t know many other pet owners who are local, try joining a pet playgroup through social media. (There are even apps that can help you find a playmate for your pooch.) Not only is this a good way for pets to make new friends, but it can provide you with some opportunities for socialization as well.
Enrich Their Environment.
You can’t be responsible for keeping your pet entertained 24/7. To prevent your pet from getting bored when you’re not around (or not in the mood play), fill your home with toys and products designed to stimulate their senses. Food-dispensing toys are a great option for both cats and dogs, especially if you’re looking to keep them occupied for long periods of time. For pet owners who want something that will distract them for even longer, try this neat trick: Freeze a scoop of peanut butter inside of the toy instead of filling it with dry treats. Don’t be surprised if your pet spends the whole day trying to lick out every last bit.
Keep Them On A Schedule.
Like kids (and adults), pets can benefit from sticking to a daily routine. Bedtime, playtime, meal times, and bathroom breaks should all occur at generally the same time every day. To keep their routine consistent, set reminders on your phone just like you would for any other daily activity. By staying organized, it won’t be too difficult to plan your pet’s schedule around your own. Make your life easier by timing your pet’s first bathroom break of the day for a little after you wake up—this way, they won’t be conditioned to wake up before you do. In addition, make sure your pet’s meals always come first to keep them from begging for some of yours, and when scheduling play sessions, leave a couple of extra hours for them to wind down before bedtime.
Ease Separation Anxiety.
For pet owners who leave home to go to work each morning, seeing their pets torn apart by separation anxiety can feel like torture. Some ways pets express their stress is through destructive chewing, urination, and endless barking and whining. And contrary to stereotypes, dogs aren’t the only pets who get anxious when their owners depart: Cats can also become distressed, although they generally find more subtle ways to express their feelings, like excessive grooming. One tip for reducing separation anxiety in pets is to leave them something with your scent on it. A blanket or a piece of clothing that smells like you can help them feel less lonely when you’re not around.
Keep Them Well-Groomed.
Regular baths are important, but they can be stressful—for both of you. If your dog or cat isn’t a fan of the tub, try feeding them breakfast or dinner during their bath, which will teach your pet to associate baths with a more positive experience.
Make Them Easy To Find.
No one wants to imagine losing their pet, but there are plenty of precautions you can take that will make them easier to locate in case the worst should happen. Give your pet’s nylon collar a safety upgrade by gluing reflective tape to the outside. Not only could this save his or her life if they run out into the road, but it will also make your pet easier to find if he or she has free reign of the backyard at night.
Your pets are like family, and you want to protect them like family. That’s why it’s important to keep your pets protected with affordable pet insurance through the GEICO Insurance Agency. Get a free online quote today.
Next article: How To Keep Track of Your Pet
Originally published March 2016.