Pet gripes

As the second-to-last issue in which our hopes for the new year seem somewhat relevant, we’d like to offer some hopes for how people increase, feed and treat the animals and pets with which they interact.

First, while we acknowledge that companion pets do have certain health benefits for the people who spend time with them, can we at least say up front that there is nothing in the manual of being human that requires a person to own a pet. It’s a commitment that no child can make for him- or herself, and the cute duckies, chickies and bunnies that get passed around like Peeps on Easter often end up a horrible lesson in mortality for your child.

There are two categories of pets that people should avoid if they do decide to accept the responsibility of having pets in 2014. First, don’t buy a puppy or kitty or hedgehog or ferret from a pet store. In the bigger picture, as our society matures, maybe we’ll move beyond importing animals from foreign ecosystems into our own. The other category of animal that should be left alone is those that reside in the wild. Misplaced babies, including birds, raccoons, chipmunks and coyotes should be left alone; the mother is almost certainly within eyeshot. In fact, just consider it a general rule to stay away from wild animals, but if you happen to see the parent die, or the animal is on the verge of death, calling animal control is the proper way to handle the situation.

Feed your pets the right food, and the right amounts of food. Pet owners can avoid a lot of expensive vet bills down the road if they don’t feed animals from the table.

Get your animals to the veterinarian. Your pooch may need his anal gland expressed. Your cat may have an issue it can’t tell you about. Spay and neuter all your pets that even occasionally go outdoors. Double check that their immunizations are up-to-date. While you’re at it, check on your kids.

Teach your pets basic good behavior. It may be your choice as to whether they get on the furniture, but a pet that doesn’t heel on command may be killed by a car, especially if they get the training that a call or a whistle is time for a game of tag.

Don’t pet the bears.

Your dog is fat, and so are you. Really, how much can it hurt to get the leash out twice a day? Twenty minutes around the neighborhood twice a day will add 730 miles a year to your exercise regime. That’s a potential burn of 73,000 calories or 20 human fat pounds.

When’s the last time you updated the information on your pet’s collar? Does it still have the right phone number and name on it? Is your indoor-outdoor pet chipped in case something comes along that scares it enough that it will ignore all its good training? Every year dozens of dogs run away on the Fourth of July.

Consider bringing your outdoor cat inside. Domestic cats kill wildlife in the billions of birds and small mammals annually.

2014 can be a better year for the pets in your life. If you’re going to accept the responsibility to care for an animal, care for it responsibly.