February is Responsible Pet Owners Month! As pet owners, we all want the best for our animals, whether they have fur, scales, feathers, or fins. There is a lot of varying advice and information out there and it can be difficult to determine which recommendations to follow. This is why it’s important for all pet owners to do research on their pet’s needs and to select a family veterinarian that is familiar with their type of pet. Whether you are preparing to adopt your first pet or if you are a long-time pet owner, here are ten ways to tell you are (or will be!) a responsible pet owner:
1. You Invest in Your Pet’s Basic Needs
When adding a new member to your family, it’s important to make sure you have what your pet will need to live comfortably. This includes food and water dishes or dispensers, food, leashes, litter boxes, proper-sized enclosures for smaller pets, and so on! Research your type of pet and make a list of what they will need. It’s also important to clean, update, and replace these items as needed!
2. You Establish a Routine with Your Pet
Having a routine at your house is a good practice for both you and your pet to minimize stress and to create a bond. Routines include meals, bathroom breaks, and regular exercise and/or play times every day.
3. You Take the Time to Properly Train Your Pet
Training pets to obey basic commands and being comfortable around other animals and people reduces the likelihood of your pet getting into things around the house that they shouldn’t and the risk of your pet being injured or your pet injuring another animal or person.
4. You Enrich Your Pet’s Environment
Whether you have a snake that stays in their enclosure the majority of the time or a dog that goes to work with you every day, it’s important to determine what your specific pet’s needs are to keep them comfortable and mentally stimulated to prevent boredom.
5. You Care About Your Pet’s Health
When you first welcome a new pet, you should have them evaluated by a veterinarian that is familiar with your type of pet. General check-ups and vaccinations (if appropriate for your pet) help keep your pet healthy. This also allows you to ask your veterinarian about any questions or concerns when it comes to your pet’s health or behavior. Thorough physical exams, preventative care and vaccinations, and diagnostics (as needed) to catch early signs of a disease or illness will give your pet the best quality of life!
6. You Schedule Regular Vet Visits
Speaking of the vet, it’s important for pets to be seen by a veterinarian annually or semi-annually, depending on your pet’s needs. In addition to keeping your pet healthy, regular vet visits also allow you and your pet the opportunity to establish a relationship with your vet. This way, when your pet just isn’t feeling like himself, your family veterinarian will be able to better recognize the changes, as well as determine treatment plans that work best for your family’s lifestyle.
7. You Prepare for Emergencies
Just like you would for your human members, it’s important for families to prepare for a pet emergency. We recommend having a pet first aid kit, creating a family evacuation plan that includes your pet, discussing any wishes if your pet does face a severe emergency, and having documents that will prepare a pet sitter for a pet emergency. In addition, pet owners should choose to either obtain pet insurance or set aside a savings account for a pet’s medical emergencies.
8. You Pay Attention to Your Pet’s Diet and Nutrition
While pet owners often show their love for their pets through food and treats, responsible pet owners recognize what’s needed in their pet’s diet and what’s not. It’s important to provide serving sizes of the right food for your pet to guarantee your pet is getting the proper nutrition and eating the correct amount of calories. This means avoiding health risks such as pet obesity by refusing table scraps and excessive treats!
9. You Respect Space and Boundaries
When in public, dog owners should have their dogs on leashes and ask before introducing their pet to other pets or people. You should also be familiar with your pet’s social skills and behavior, especially while at the dog park. Owners with indoor pets need to consider their own pet’s stress level and space when visitors and other pets come into the home. Some pets need to be kept in a closed-off, separate room to minimize their anxiety.
10. You Provide Your Pet with Daily Attention
No matter what type of pet you have, you should set aside time in your day to give your pet your undivided attention. This will help you create a bond and show your love!
When adopting a pet, pet owners are accepting a lot of responsibility. If you meet your pet’s basic needs, schedule vet visits, and show a lot of love, we are confident your pet will have a happy, healthy life. Thank you for choosing to be a responsible pet owner!
Written by Megan Johnson, DVM, MS