You see them on your calendar or splashed across a banner at a local business: Pancake Week, National Hairball Awareness Day (fur real), Sibling Appreciation Day.
From Asparagus Month to World Book Day, there’s a celebration or commemoration period for just about everything. Perhaps one of the best known is, "Be Kind to Animals Week" (May 6-12 this year), which was created in 1915 by the American Humane Association to celebrate the human-animal bond and recognize the value of all living creatures.
Being kind to animals is something we should do year-round, of course, but it never hurts to take a moment—or a week—to think about some of the best ways to do that. Here are some ideas to help make your dog or cat’s life better—not just for a week but throughout its life:
1. Understand your pet’s needs. Knowing and meeting an animal’s physical and emotional requirements can help you provide a stimulating environment that will prevent boredom or troublemaking. That can include taking dogs for daily walks and giving them time to sniff, or providing cats with tall scratching posts that allow them to stretch and climb or enclosed outdoor play areas where they can roll in the grass and nap in a puddle of sunshine.
2. Give your dog or cat some interactive puzzle toys. Switch them out occasionally so they always have something new to keep them occupied.
3. Play with your cat. Just like dogs, they need and enjoy exercise and play. Bonus: they don’t need as much. Get a big peacock feather to wave around, some Ping Pong balls, a wand with a toy dangling from a string, or a puzzle toy loaded with treats, then watch your sedate cat turn into a kitten again. For more ways to keep your cat entertained and exercised, visit a web site called the Indoor Cat Initiative (indoorcat.org), created by Tony Buffington, DVM, of Ohio State University, who studies stress-induced lower urinary tract disease in cats.
4. Take your dog for a walk. Choose a time when you can go at his pace, letting him sniff to his olfactory content. Note what catches his attention. You just might see something new.
5. Teach your pet a new trick. Training gives the brain a workout and helps pets stay young at heart. It’s also a good way to get in a little exercise: practicing that come-when-called command gets them moving, especially when they know a treat is waiting for them. This works for cats as well as dogs. Other easy tricks to teach include sit up and wave, and jumping through a hoop. Look for books on trick -training at the library or pet supply store.
6. Learn to read your dog's or cat’s mind. There are lots of good books about how animals think and behave. If you know what’s normal for them, you’ll be more able to recognize and cope with problems.
7. Pet your pet. Who doesn’t love a good back scratch or smoothing of the hair by a loving hand? A plus is that it will help lower your blood pressure.
8. Keep your pet healthy. Preventive care by way of regular veterinary exams will help catch problems early and save you money in the long run.
9. Spay or neuter your pet. It has lots of health benefits for dogs and cats and prevents the birth of unwanted kittens or puppies. Talk to your veterinarian about the best age for the surgery. Cats should be altered as early as five months, but some large and giant dog breeds benefit from waiting until they’ve reached their full growth.
9. Keep your pet safe through indoor living, outdoor play only under supervision or on leash, and identification with a collar and tag and a microchip, which serves as backup in case the collar comes off or is removed.
10. Measure your pet’s food so you don’t overfeed him. Overweight pets can develop serious health issues, including diabetes and arthritis. Keeping them slim and fit is a great way to show your love.
11. Clean your cat’s litter box once or twice a day and dump out the litter and clean the box every couple of weeks. Nobody wants to use a filthy bathroom, least of all your fastidious cat.
12. Celebrating "Be Kind to Animals Week" is one way to repay our dogs and cats for being such wonderful companions. They give us the sensory pleasure of petting them, as well as the emotional release of talking to another being that won’t judge us or scold us or make fun of us. There’s something mysterious and sometimes even a little wild about them that makes us feel closer to the natural world.
Those are just a few of my favorite reasons for being kind to animals. What are yours?