Pet appreciation: 4 ways to thank our pets for all they give to us
Love. Loyalty. Companionship. Protection. Entertainment. Inspiration. Our pets give to us every day, unconditionally, mostly without prompts or bribes (I said mostly!). I would not be the veterinarian I am today without the influence of my childhood dog, Belle. I would not be the mom (fur and human) I am without first mothering my cat Samson, who was my very first pet as an adult. My patients fill me up – even when they are sick, their strength encourages me and inspires me to be a better doctor. I am not sure it is really possible to thank these creatures for all they give to us, but I am attempting it! In honor of pet appreciation week, here are 4 ways to show your fur friend how much they mean to you.
Have you ever heard the quote, “He might only be here for a part of your life, but for him, you are his whole life.”? I saw it come across social media years ago and it has become embedded in my brain ever since because it is so very true. We are their whole life and quality time together fills them up immensely (yes, even cats). My lab, Bodie, is an old man now so quality time for us is sitting together, early in the morning, listening to the chirp of the birds and the rustle of the trees as squirrels jump from one branch to the next. I drink a cup of coffee and he sits next to me while I massage his ears (his favorite thing). When Bodie was younger our quality time was spent on long runs and cooling off with a swim in the ocean. My cat, Samson, was my best study partner. He always curled up next to me and stayed with me during long nights of studying. He was always the best study break too - chasing the laser or hunting lizards, he always kept me awake & entertained. Over the years I have become busier than I was as a single working fur mom. I’ve added a husband, 3 children, additional dogs and cats, so I know it is challenging to find the time to be with your fur babies. I cherish the time I spend with my pets, I know we all do, we just need to take the extra step in making sure it happens. We owe it to them and also to ourselves!
Speaking of quality time, this was how Bodie and I spent our afternoons when we were younger: exercising! He isn’t my running partner anymore. He is older and cannot tolerate that type of exercise, but we go to the beach for swims on the weekend and try to take regular walks throughout the week. For many families, doggy daycare is a great outlet for their pets. It provides exercise and mental stimulation by interacting with other dogs. Plus, you get a tired and well-behaved dog at the end of the day! It is a win-win! Exercise can be trickier with cats, but it is no less important. Cat trees should be an essential part of the indoor environment, especially if you keep your cat indoors. They provide a place to climb, hide, and scratch. But, my favorite way to exercise cats is by using a hunting feeder, like the Doc and Phoebe system. It encourages the cat to hunt for its food which helps with mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. Making sure our pets get exercise is important to keep them healthy, happy, and in our lives for as long as possible.
We love to love our fur babies with food, don’t we? And if your animals are anything like mine, they will accept any and all handouts! I always tell my clients, treats are absolutely ok and they should be a part of your pet’s diet. But, you need to make sure they are getting quality meals in addition to the treats and not too many calories overall. For many people, this means putting their pet on a diet formulated to meet the AAFCO feeding standards as offered by the larger food companies: Purina, Hills, and Royal Canin. Some families like to feed the more rare diets (venison, rabbit, sweet potato, etc.) but we need to be cautious about these as they can cause heart problems in dogs (read more in my previous post on diets and the link to canine heart disease). Another fabulous option is to cook for your animal(s). I know this option is not for everyone! It is time consuming and not cheap, but there are many companies such as Just Food For Dogs that will deliver nutritionally balanced home-cooked meals (there is a veterinarian on staff) to your door!
Regular veterinary care
Of course the best way to show you care for your pet is making sure they are around for as long as possible. Regular checkups with your family veterinarian help to ensure your pet is up to date on vaccines, prevention, and bloodwork. It is important to have a relationship with your veterinarian where you feel you can talk openly and discuss your thoughts and any concerns you may have. As we all know, our pets cannot communicate the way we all would want them to, so having a strong relationship with your pet’s doctor is the best way to ensure quality care for their lifetime.
I hope you are able to spend some quality time with your fur baby this week. Take them for a walk or a swim. Invest in a new scratch post for your cat and some new treats (maybe even homemade) for your dog. I am so thankful for my cats and my sweet Bodie dog that I plan to spend the rest of their lives showing them how much they mean to me!
– Leigh Hofmeister, DVM