Today is National Love your Pet Day. Yup, February 20 is the day to celebrate this unofficial holiday. While most pet owners are loving, responsible care takers to their animal companions, it doesn’t hurt to have a special day to lavish some extra attention on a pet, and to remind us of some pet care necessities. Pets love unconditionally, give companionship, listen in an unbiased, manner, comfort, and even save lives.
According to the Humane Society of the US, about 62 % of homes have at least one pet, making the number of owned pets topping 164 million. 46% of American households have at least one dog. That makes about 83.3 million pet dogs across the country. We like cats even more. 46% of us have at least one cat but we own 96.5 million cats. Other popular pets include birds, hamsters, horses, turtles, lizards, guinea pigs, rabbits, and even pygmy pigs, which live indoors.
There are over 3500 animal shelters in the US. Between 6-8 million animals enter shelters every year. 25% of these animals are purebred dogs. Between 3-4 million pets are adopted from shelters annually, but sadly, about 2.7 million are euthanized. 30% of shelter dogs are reclaimed by their owners, while only 2.5% of cats are. Shelters need and depend on support and volunteer help. Consider donating time, goods, or money to one as a way to love pets this year.
A day to lavish attention on our pets is a good reminder to make sure they are healthy. An annual vet wellness check is a good idea. Pets, especially those which spend time outside, need all their vaccinations up to date. Vets check general health, state of dentition, joints, and more. All these checks lead to a longer and healthier life for pets. Vets also can see changes in animals over time, which their human may not see since they are with them daily. Changes are a way vets can discover early onset of many medical conditions which make treatment and cure more likely.
Annual vet checks are even more important for senior pets (over age 6), and handicapped pets, whose owners deserve special kudos for the extra love in adopting and caring for these unique animals. Special note should also be given to people who foster animals, including litters until they are at an adoptable place, and socialize animals that have been abused, neglected or abandoned, so they can find a loving home. Thanks also goes to those who train service pets, acclimate them to their jobs, and caretakers or owners of law enforcement and military animals, and medical alert pets.
Here are some ways to love your pet today and frequently throughout the coming year:
Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise that is appropriate for their age and health state. Puppies need lots of exercise, so be sure you can commit to the needs of a growing dog if considering adopting a pup. Older dogs need exercise, too.
An occasional special treat is okay once in a while. Maintaining an appropriate diet is one of the best ways to love your pet. Purchase high quality pet foods with the correct ingredients for your type of pet. Avoid brands with fillers, chemicals, hormones, byproducts, etc. Cats need meat- they are carnivores. Their food should be grain free. Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can eat both meat and grains, but thrive on a primarily meat diet. Check with your vet for recommendations.
Consider a new toy. We spent $55.7 billion on pets in 2013. $13.1 billion was on supplies, so a new toy once in a while is okay. Buy American when possible.
Schedule a bath and grooming appointment. Even cats need nails trimmed and fur cleaned occasionally. Many dogs love baths, and they certainly look and smell better after.
Make a special sleep spot for your pet. Some pet owners set up a corner with bedding, toys and a blanket to cuddle. Many pet owners allow pets to cuddle up on the bed or even under the covers. Loving your pet takes many forms. Just remember that you are the pet parent.
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