Resources to Help You Face the Challenges of Pet Ownership
bHaving animals in our homes is a rich, rewarding experience. They become an integral part of our family, filling our lives with joy and companionship. They can also serve a purpose, helping our children to learn an ethic of responsibility, and develop their sense of empathy. That said, a life with animals is rarely without significant challenges.
Whether it’s day-to-day issues such as potty training, or the big problems of disease, pet ownership can be trying. Just as with any family member, there will be times that you’ll find yourself under stress. But that’s not to say that the positivity your pets will bring isn’t more than worth the difficult days. You just need a little help along the way.
Photo by Anna Dudkova
When our family pet becomes ill, it can be just as disturbing as becoming sick ourselves. Our inability to effectively communicate with our animals to discover how to ease their suffering is often frustrating and upsetting. So, it’s important therefore to take preparatory steps.
Beyond picking up some dog food, most of us don’t have much of an insight into what dietary decisions to make that are best for our pet’s health. There are a few hard and fast rules — all animals need dietary proteins that produce amino acids; fats are essential for energy. But this knowledge isn’t always helpful in a practical way. The Pet Nutrition Alliance can be a good source of information. Their website is often used by veterinarians, and they provide calorie calculators and guides to creating nutrition plans.
Obtaining adequate insurance is also a key responsibility for any pet owner. Vet’s bills can easily become overwhelming, and you don’t want to have to make a choice between your finances and your pet’s health. However, if you do find yourself unable to afford your pet’s emergency medical care, your local veterinary college may have a program that can help. There are also breed specific rescue groups that may offer assistance.
It would be nice to think that our pets will always be calm, friendly, and well behaved. However, they are contrary beings and, like us, their behavior won’t always be perfect. That said, there are tools we can use to set ourselves and our pets on the right track.
Firstly, don’t underestimate the importance of playtime. Aside from providing an avenue through which to let out some pent-up energy, it serves a multitude of behavioral needs. You can use it to make your bond stronger, and reinforce your authority. Fetching and finding games are a subtle and fun way to encourage a dog’s obedience to instructions.
Some behavioral issues will naturally be beyond the expertise of the average pet owner. In these circumstances it’s always best to consult your veterinarian for advice or a referral to a pet behavioral specialist. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also provides a useful set of guidelines to identifying dog and cat behavioral issues, and advice on how to deal with them.
Death will always be one of the most challenging aspects of pet ownership. You’ve built a relationship with them that makes them another member of your family. When they pass away, it’s important to treat their death with the same gravity as you would a human family member.
Pet memorialization has become more popular and accessible in recent years. You can select pet urns that best match your companion’s personality and place in your life. Put your energy into creating a ceremony that celebrates their life. If you don’t own your property, veterinarians are often best placed to direct you to your nearest pet crematorium.
There are also an increasing number of grief experts specializing in the loss of a pet. Make contact with grief counsellors in your area, who can point you in the right direction. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s been recognized in recent years that other pets in your household may also grieve for the loss of another. Take time to learn about how animals experience death, and place some focus on how to help them through it.
Pet ownership is a challenging role, but filled with countless rewards. Take time to understand the issues that you may come across with your furry companion. With a little preparation, and by connecting with professionals, you can make the experience more positive.