Monday, June 24, 2024

ANIMALS 101 – WHY LOVE FOR YOUR PET IS NOT ENOUGH

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BEYOND LOVE, THERE IS A DEEPER COMMITMENT REQUIRED FOR OUR FURRY COMPANIONS

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, a day when affectionate gestures abound. As we express love towards those who hold special places in our hearts, it’s crucial to extend that sentiment beyond our human relationships. This article touches on the responsibility of being a guardian to our animal companions, emphasizing that love, though essential, is not enough, but a good starting point.

While many proudly proclaim that their animals receive love, the emphasis often centers around the provision of attention. Pets are showered with pats, cuddles, and playful interactions, and rightly so, as these gestures contribute to a strong emotional bond.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that love extends beyond mere attention. Animals, though appreciative of affection, require a comprehensive approach to care. Attention is a beautiful aspect of love, but it should be complemented by responsible care, proper nutrition, a safe environment, and activities that cater to their physical and mental well-being. In the realm of pet ownership, love should not only be measured in the moments of connection but also in the sustained commitment to meeting their diverse needs throughout their lives.

In an article by The Whole Dog Journal, Pat Miller shares: “Humans tend to naturally want to demonstrate their love with hugs, petting, and cuddles – and some dogs love being hugged, petted, and cuddled, too! But others don’t. As primates, our reflexive displays of affection may not be appreciated by our dogs.”

They didn’t get to choose.  Unlike humans who choose their companions, animals are forced to live and cope in our human world and deserve more than the basics. Recognizing this lack of agency amplifies our responsibility to make their existence by our side as enriching and fulfilling as possible. Owning an animal goes beyond the obligations required by law of providing shelter, food, and water. They are our companions by circumstance, and as their guardians, we must ensure their well-being in every aspect by meeting all their needs.

love
Image by Bark & Whiskers

LOVE AS A FOUNDATION, NOT THE DESTINATION

While love is undoubtedly a crucial component of the human-animal bond, it’s not a standalone solution. Animals need more than our affectionate pats and belly rubs. The onus is on us to delve deeper into their needs, understanding that they rely entirely on our choices and actions for their quality of life.

As a start, they need the 5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst.
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
  • Freedom from discomfort.
  • Freedom from fear and distress.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour.

In addition to these basics they also need:

Proper Nutrition

Animals require a species-appropriate balanced diet, clean water and food bowls, and clean, fresh, and cool drinking water daily.  Keeping their weight in check is a crucial responsibility together with healthcare.

Healthcare

Take responsibility for your pet’s health by providing annual vaccinations, regular preventative parasitic treatment, general health checks by a qualified vet, and necessary grooming. Seek veterinary consultation promptly when your pet is sick or injured. Ensuring they are healthy is a fundamental expression of love and responsibility.

Exercise, Training and Enrichment

Beyond physical needs and the right amount of exercise, animals thrive on mental stimulation. Toys, games, and activities tailored to their species contribute significantly to their overall happiness. They also need to interact with their own species. Be accountable for your pet’s behaviour by ensuring they understand basic commands, are well-socialized to cope with various aspects of life, receive behavioural training when necessary, from a reputable behaviourist, and experience reward-based training. They also need to be allowed to express natural behaviour like digging, playing, barking, and more.

Safety and Security

Providing a safe environment is non-negotiable. This includes secure enclosures, pet-proofing living spaces, and preventing exposure to harmful substances. It also includes training them with basic commands to keep them safe and not allowing them to roam the streets like irresponsible owners do. Animals should not be used to protect us, but we need to protect them.  I don’t get how people let them sleep outside when we live in this dangerous world where they get hit, shot, and poisoned for the sake of “protecting the family”. They are my responsibility, not the other way around which is selfish.

Understanding, respect, and advocacy

They need understanding and respect.  This you can provide if you know how to read their body language and what they are feeling. As pet guardians, we are the voice for our furry friends in unfamiliar situations, be it at the vet, with a trainer, or at the groomer’s. It’s our responsibility to speak up if we feel uncomfortable with a particular approach, ensuring our pets receive the care that suits their needs and comfort. Advocating for our pets strengthens the bond between us, creating an environment where they feel secure and understood.

Read more on responsible pet guardianship here.

The consequences of neglecting these responsibilities can be severe. Behavioural issues, health problems, and a diminished quality of life are all potential outcomes when love is not accompanied by conscientious care.

WAYS TO LOVE YOUR PET

Pat Miller further shares: To determine what kind of touch and attention she really loves, try a “consent test”: Sit near your dog. When your dog approaches you, initiate contact. The best first contact is usually a scratch on the chest (not on top of the dog’s head, few dogs like that!). Scratch or pet her for about three seconds, then remove your hand. If your dog moves closer or nudges your hand and has a relaxed facial expression, she is inviting more physical contact.”

This Valentine’s Day, let’s redefine our commitment to our animal companions. Love is the foundation, but we must build upon it with proper care, enrichment, safety, and an unwavering dedication to meeting their unique needs. Only then can we truly honor the privilege of being their guardians. We must love them in a way that makes them feel safe.

Next week we will look at the cruelty of birds in cages.

WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER!