There’s a relatively new term flying around and I LOVE it! The term is “pet parent”; not owner, or master (man I hate that one!), but parent. Many of you have probably heard it before, but I still run across pet lovers who haven’t, and I’m on a mission to change that. So what is a “pet parent” anyway. Well, to me, it’s a person who is responsible for raising a well mannered, socially adapted, emotionally confidant, and physically healthy animal of another species. I mean, that’s what parents do for their human children right? So isn’t the term fitting?
The thing I love about animals the most, is that it really doesn’t take much to impress them. Time, love, and treats, and you have a friend for life. Whatever lives in your house: cat, dog, bird, reptile; give your pet an awesome weekend and foster that unconditional friendship.
With warm weather on its way everyone seems to be talking about exercise recently. For those of you who love a good run that’s great, but I, myself, personally… don’t. In truth I’ve always been one to avoid physical activity when possible. In middle school I was known not to dress out for P.E. so I didn’t have to participate, and in high school I lucked out and got to take P.E. with the physics teacher who made all sports optional. And now that I’m grown I do what I need to, to stay healthy, but no more.
Many people are not physically active whether as a habit or through some situation such as health problems, a broken leg, recovering from surgery, ect. The problem is, good exercise is so important for your pet, and maintaining your pet’s health is an important part of truly pampering your pets. Giving your pet good exercise helps them maintain a proper weight, reduces stress levels, and stimulates their minds to prevent boredom (just to name a few benefits).
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Have you gotten your pet a gift yet? I’ll be honest, if I weren’t blogging this, I’d be putting mine together on the 13th, but luckily blogging keeps me from procrastinating… sometimes.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never gotten into the sweetheart part of Valentine’s Day, I even faked sick Valentine’s Day of my senior year so I could avoid my boyfriend; true story. However, when it comes to spoiling my pets with treats, toys, and extra cuddles; that’s my happy place, and Valentine’s Day is another excuse to do just that.
Whether or not you’re into the romance part of February 14th there are so many ways you can include your pets in the holiday to make sure they have a great day too.
Put a Valentine’s Day gift basket together
Creating the perfect gift basket for each of your pets is so easy, and it is way less expensive than the one you’ll put together for your date (unless you splurge on a diamond collar, which I totally understand). As with any gift, when putting a gift together for my pets I think about three things: What do they like, what do they need, and how can I personalize it. Treats are always a staple, no matter what type of pet you have you can’t go wrong including some of their favorite food. New toys are also a must. Getting new toys helps keep your pet’s mind active and stimulated, and with the holiday coming up there will be some super cute options. Accessories! I can’t say enough about pet accessories: necklaces, collar charms, bows, sweaters, dresses. I could just load up the basket with accessories.
Take extra time for cuddles
Valentine’s Day is all about love, so don’t forget to give your pets more than enough. Bonding is such an important part of building a strong relationship with your pets, and it’s amazing how much a little bonding time with an animal can improve your morale. How many times have you turned to your pets after a bad day for an extra cuddle? And just think about how quickly a wet kiss can turn around a frown, or those tickly little snake kisses, I love those! When I was at work I would often go hold the snakes or talk to the turtles whenever I got frustrated. I’d just say “I’m socializing the animals” to pretend I was still working. But bonding time is as good for your pets as it is for you, and it’s probably the best gift you can give them for any holiday.
- Take an extra ten minutes during your walk or play time
- Lie on the floor with them (or your bed) and snuggle up
- Take your pet on an outing. The pet store, or the park, are great places to start
If your valentine date is worth keeping they will be thrilled to have a furry friend along for the date. Your pet will enjoy spending the evening with company and you can explore places you may have never visited. There are a surprising amount of places that allow pets, but when in doubt always make a phone call first. Take a look at these pet friendly date ideas.
- Restaurants with outside seating. Many restaurants with outside seating will allow leashed dogs at the table. Sometimes they will even provide bowls of water.
- Community Events. Is a park near you hosting a community Valentine’s event? These are not only fun, but almost always pet friendly! Sip hot chocolate, browse the vendors, and enjoy the entertainment. And it will definitely be more fun with your pet alongside. Just don’t forget to take some water and treats along.
- Drive in Theater. When was the last time you went to one of these? And yes, they do still exist. Going to a drive in is such a fun and vintage idea, and almost all of them are pet friendly.
There’s no rule that says you have to go out on Valentine’s Day. Ask your sweetheart to stay in. Cook dinner together or order out. While you’re in the kitchen spoil your pets with some safe scraps or cook up a dinner just for them. Set the table for three and enjoy. When dinner’s done go for a walk or stay in for a board game. And while you’re busy playing Uno, or a more Valentine’s Day themed game ;), give your pet a treat puzzle or a new toy to play with.
Do you have any more great ideas for including your pets on Valentine’s day? I’d love to hear about them.
If you have a cat at home that runs and hides from you, and everything else, I feel your pain. About two years ago I had the privilege of adopting a new cat, and he was so skittish it hurt. I felt so bad for this cat because he spent all day, every day, hiding behind my suitcase in the back of the closet. He would come out to eat, but ate so quickly (so he could go back to hiding) that he always threw it up. Gus is actually my mother-in-law’s cat that came to live with us when she downsized her house. I’ve been told he was a stray, abused by some neighborhood kids, and found by my sister-in-law who brought him in when he was still very little. But even though he’s lived 98% of his life in a loving home, he’s skittishness still upset me, so when he came to live with us I wanted to try all I could to help Gus.
Talk to your Vet
Vets are a wealth of information, not just on physical issues, but behavior as well. I first called the vet because Gus was throwing up so often. After an exam the vet said that Gus was a bit dehydrated and eats too fast. She switched us to a wet food and suggested that we use a special bowl to help him slow down. She also suggested letting him eat with the bedroom door closed so that he could eat in peace. Finally she suggested Feliway, a plug-in diffuser that diffuses a “cat happy enzyme”. She actually suggested that for Jonah’s spraying, but said that it may help Gus too. In an effort to help this cat, I tried every idea she gave me.
Make your Cat feel safe while eating
Skittish cats tend to eat very quickly, or not at all, because they are afraid. With Gus we did try the special bowl to make him slow down, but it didn’t work. He ate slower, but he was on edge the entire time, and was often abandoning his food to run under the bed. So next we tried moving his food and water into the closet. This worked perfectly. Whenever Gus eats he goes in the closet with the door closed and takes his time. This alone, reduced his vomiting by half. I was amazed!
Feliway is a natural enzyme that, when smelled by cats, tells their brain that everything is ok and there is no reason to be afraid. It’s recommended not only for fearful cats, but also aggressive cats, and cats that spray. I tried the plug-in version for about two months. I did notice some difference in Gus’ behavior, but it did not pull him completely out of his shell. I no longer keep it plugged in every day, but I do use it as a proactive measure in stressful situations, for example, a kids birthday party, or for the first few weeks after bringing a new dog home. I think Feliway does help Gus relax a little, but not enough for me to use daily. If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, or reading more about it, you can find it here.
Give your Cat Space
A skittish cat does not want to be surrounded by people all the time. It is important that your cat has a designated space where he can feel safe and be left alone. As long as Gus hid in the closet I made sure that his hiding places were available and clean. Furthermore I made sure that he was not stressed while in his space. Whenever I entered the room I called out to him, just so I didn’t startle him. I do not pet him while he is in the closet, and I do not let the kids go in there without a need. The closet is Gus’ safe zone.
Slow and Steady
I will say first, that if you have a fearful cat in your home it’s going to take time, but don’t get discouraged by this, just know that progress may be slow and you should be proud of every little bit. When Gus first came to live with us, he would run and hide if you sneezed. I spent a long time being careful with Gus: speaking in a quiet voice, moving slowly, and letting him initiate contact. Eventually Gus warmed up and as long as the house was quiet we could sit together. Once Gus and I became friends worked with the kids on being slow, quiet, and gentle until Gus was comfortable with them too. I remember one time my older daughter walked so slowly it took her three minutes to cross the bedroom, and when she was just out of arms reach Gus ran under the bed. She was devastated, but overtime Gus warmed up to her too.
After using the Vet’s tips, there is one other tool I suggest; positive reinforcement. It is a powerful tool for any animal. Taking the time to play with Gus, give him treats when he came to me, and continuing to show him the love he grew up with had a strong effect. I had to use the above techniques first, and wait until Gus was a bit more comfortable with me to put this one into practice, but once I could talk in a normal voice around him; it was bonding time. Playing, petting, and providing treats helped Gus and me build a relationship full of positive vibes. I worked on this, not only with myself, but allowed each of the children to take some personal time bonding with Gus too.
I’ll be honest, putting all of these methods into use, it still took us about a year. But the patience, work, and money that went into this process was so worth it. Gus is like an entirely different cat now. He’s walks around the house, he greets us when we come home. He spends time in the kids’ rooms and actively seeks human interaction. Not only this, but his personality has blossomed and he is more beautiful than ever. I don’t expect him to greet visitors, but I am happy with our progress, and I think Gus is happier too.
When I was a kid I used to love the show Wild Thornberrys. I loved it mostly because the little girl, Eliza, could talk to animals (It’s also one of the reasons I like Sofia the First). I think if I could have any magic power, talking to animals would be it. Not only could I have a conversation with any dog, but I could also tell that lizard in the wall “I don’t want to eat you. Just climb on my hand and I’ll put you back outside.” Wouldn’t life be wonderful?
I don’t think I’ll ever have that power, but fortunately, there are a few phrases that can make it across the language barrier and “I love you” is one of them. So, how do you tap into your interspecies language skills and tell any pet how much you love them? It’s easy.
If you’ve ever adopted an abused pet, you know how hard it can be to earn their trust. Some respond with fear, others with aggression and knowing what to do and how to handle the different responses can be a hard road of trial and error. But, the sooner you figure it out, the sooner you and your pet can enjoy life together.
Finding time to play with your pets can seem like a daunting task, especially when you have a high energy pet and a busy life, but it’s not impossible. Finding time to play is one of the best ways to bond with your pet, really, even more than feeding (even though my cat might say otherwise), and for those of us who adore our pets, there is nothing more important than keeping that relationship strong. So how do you fit in some good play time, and still get everything else done?
Loosing a pet, for any reason, is the hardest thing about having pets. I’d potty train a hundred puppies before loosing one pet, but unfortunately animals have much shorter life spans than we do and it’s one of the sad things we face. Still, being an adult we are able to understand and cope with the loss. Children don’t always have that same benefit. All they understand is that something they love is gone. We adults have to teach them what that means and how to move on in a healthy way.
Not everybody loves every type of animal and that’s ok. You may be wondering why I even posted this. “If I don’t like cat’s I won’t get a cat.” Sounds easy, but sometimes you get stuck with an animal you aren’t all that comfortable with. Maybe you married someone with a pet tarantula or five cats, but learning to love and bond with all the animals in your life regardless of the type, will do wonders for your every day life. If you’re lucky you’ll even find your worst fear turning into your best friend.