1. Budget. Can you afford real food nutrition for your dog or cat?
We’ve spent decades feeding dogs and cats the exact same food for every meal, from a bag or can that smells awful, has an almost unlimited shelf life, and rarely has any real food ingredients in it. Before you make a decision to get a dog or cat, can you afford to feed it real food nutrition?
Whole foods (not the by-products common in commercial pet food) will make your pet much happier and healthier. They will live longer, and a nutritious diet can drastically lower your vet bills. Yet no one even considers the price of food, because traditional pet food costs mere pennies. This is because it is not real food. Ever wonder why pet food is located in the cleaning supply aisle of every grocery store? It’s because it’s not real food, and must be at least 6 feet from real food. That doesn’t sound so appetizing does it? No wonder so many pets are“picky eaters!”
There are few regulations for pet food (none in Canada), so be skeptical when reading labels, and learn the true definitions of terms like “meat”.
Go online and see how many daily calories your dog or cat will need, and see how much it will cost to feed it a fresh cooked diet from any number of real pet food makers. Change up the recipe often – even every meal, many pets, especially dogs, love the variety! Think of yourself, you wouldn’t make the time to walk and exercise each day and then eat something worse than fast food for every meal of your lives, so please apply that same common sense to your family pet. Also, feed some nutritionally balanced meals to your pets (www.tomandsawyer.com) every week (dogs and cats each have nutritional requirements that are hard to meet with supplements), but also feed some protein, vegetables and fruit to your pet from your own meals!
Also, don’t forget to feed real food treats to your pets. Whatever you are eating can be great choice too, but be sure to research what common foods are dangerous or toxic to dogs and cats.
2. Exercise and mental stimulation for a happy pet.
All breeds of dogs or cats, with their individual personalities and traits, need physical and mental stimulus every day. Daily walks and play sessions are important for dogs, especially paying attention to how their personality is affected by exercise.
Some dogs need more exercise to sleep at night, or to act calmer around people and other dogs. Every dog is a little different, so be flexible in trying different things. Some dogs love playing with toys, while others don’t like to play as much and may even have over-stimulus anxiety with certain toys, like balls. Cats may be more independent and self-sufficient than dogs, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need exercise, play and active mental stimulation.
Before getting a pet you need to commit to being active with your pet. Physical and mental activity with a pet is incredibly beneficial to humans. Did you know that interacting with your pet releases the feel good hormone oxytocin? Now that’s something to feel good about!
3. Get proper training both for your pet and for you as a pet owner.
They say that there are no bad pets, just bad pet parents/owners. This is partially true. Your new puppy, kitten or even older rescue, may need to be taught things, like how to not pee on the carpet. Many adopt their pets from breeders at an early age, when pups or kittens have yet to learn many important pet-life lessons from their parents.
It’s our job to guide them when they need a little extra help when joining our families.We don’t speak the same language, or have the same instincts, so it’s important for pet parents to get training, so as humans we can better understand the psychology of our pets. You should budget time and money to work with your pet, not only when they are young but as issues arise as they grow older.
Many small dogs will experience anxiety issues around larger dogs in their second year, or a host of other issues that without proper active training and work will result in an unhappy pet and ultimately an unhappy family. Most pets are very food motivated, so you want to motivate them with really tasty, nutritious real food treats.
Similar to point 1 in this list, we recommend you feed all natural treats that have no preservatives, and remember to consider the calories in the treats you feed when determining how much to feed at mealtime, to avoid overfeeding. Treats are crucial to training, and training is ongoing, so budget for it, and remember that it’s better to be proactive than reactive!
4. Understand the psychology of being a pet so you are both happier.
Given that pets don’t talk, pet parents need to observe how their pet reacts in different situations, like what makes them happy, and what causes them stress and anxiety. When your pet is stressed, the family unit is stressed, because your pet may not eat, damage things, lash out at people, or just generally seem very difficult.
It’s hard to relate to your pet when you don’t understand the basics of their thinking. This is where working with a trainer will help you understand your pet. A dog that is very social with other dogs will grow very depressed if always left alone at home every day. Understanding this and considering a dog walker, or dog daycare, could be helpful. Equally, a small dog that aggressively barks at larger dogs is showing anxiety and may be trying to protect their pet parent from the threat of a bigger dog, or they may simply make them nervous.
With different approaches you may be able to overcome this situation. You can protect your dog from getting anxious by crossing the street when a larger dog approaches in the distance, picking your smaller dog up, walking at times when there are fewer dogs on the street, or other similar strategies. You will never totally understand what your dog or cat is thinking, but you can go a long way to managing situations to give your pet happier experiences.
It is very rare that a dog ever tries to dominate their owner, so instead be kind, understanding and respectful in how you react and deal with your pet.
5. Be diligent in providing the best veterinarian health.
Vets are important as they provide health care to our beloved pets, and you need a vet that you can trust. You should also know that vets are different from our human doctors, in that human doctors are not permitted to sell food or medication to you, so there is more open trust and less conflict of interest.
With vets, you need to be a bit more vigilant in your own research. Most emergency vet clinics require a large deposit before they see your pet, and most work on full commission compensation, so they order lots of tests to maximize their billings. Of course, not all vets are the same. Some have taken extra education on pet nutrition and alternative therapies for treating ailments, and are more pragmatic in how often their pet patients require inoculations. Like most professions, the majority of vets are wonderful, caring professionals, and a few bad vets can give the entire industry a bruise.
For the most part, you should shy away from buying traditional pet food from a vet, or use it while supplementing with real food on your own. Their special vet diets are the same poor quality product found in grocery stores, but specially sold in vet clinics. For example, if a pet has gastro-intestinal (GI) problems, most vets will prescribe a GI diet food they sell in their clinics.
They don’t tell you that not only is there no real food in that product, but the main ingredient to help firm up your pet’s stool is clay. In all, unlike with human doctors or human food, there are few (almost zero) regulations in the pet and pet food industry, so you need to be vigilant with your research and knowledge to provide the healthiest and happiest life to your family pet.