I have owned cats for over 60 years. Between them and their vets, I have learned a great deal about how they tick.
What Is a Pet Parent?
Let me define what a pet parent is, and what one does: A pet parent is one who owns and cares for a pet. This could be a rescue, a baby (kittens or puppies are the most popular), a gift, or a purchase. It doesn’t make any difference how you acquired the pet, the point is—you have one. The other point is that you properly and safely care for it.
What Should You Do When Acquiring a Pet?
Before (or right after) you acquire a pet, you should research the best way to care for the pet. For instance: can the animal be in a small apartment, what kind of food is best for the pet or when should the pet go to the vet. These questions are important because you want to keep your pet healthy and happy while you have them. So go on the internet, get information from your local library or ask your local vet so you can find out the best ways to care for your pet. Your local animal shelter might have some answers for you as well. The number one source, in my opinion, would be the Humane Society.
Is Your Pet Safe?
We often put our pets into situations in which we are comfortable. However, that comfort for you may not be the best situation for your pet. For instance: do you let your cat go outside, does your bird ever come out of the cage, or is something you have poisonous to the pet? Keeping pets safe is a vital area that some pet parents fail to address. Are they trying to be mean or cruel? Not usually—they just don’t know that they have put the pet in danger.
You should research poisons that might be common to you but deadly to your pet such as antifreeze. Check out their best environment, inside and out, so you know you have put your pet into a safe environment. For example: is there a pet door that might allow other animals to come in and harm your pet while you are gone? A solution might be to lock the pet door when you leave and unlock it when you are home, or you could fence in the area where your pet goes out. Research shelters, poisonous plants, parasites, and illnesses so you have all the tools you will need to keep your pet safe.
Is Your Pet Comfortable?
We often place our pets into something like clothing and assume (since they don’t complain) that the pet is fine with it. You cannot assume anything about the comfort of your pet. Find out from your research what is preferred by your type of pet.
- Example: You wouldn’t put a fish into a glass with no pump and assume they will be fine. Pet beds and toys are something you can acquire for their comfort and health. Also, be sure there is nothing on which they can be injured, such as old tires, broken glass, or a shelter that doesn’t protect them from inclement weather.
Do You Know When to Take Your Pet to a Vet?
Pets are just like people; they can get very sick or injured. They may need a vet to heal them. But many pet parents do not know when to see a vet or when it will be okay to just let the animal heal on its own. Sometimes you can just call a local vet and see what they think. (Be careful, though. Some vets (the "rats") will tell you to come in whether the animal is in danger or not because that will mean money in their pocket.) If you need a vet, you might want to ask family and friends about their vet for reference before you go to a stranger. Your local shelter or the Humane Society are always good sources.
Signs That Generally Mean a Visit to the Vet Is Necessary
- Annually for their shots and general health.
- If the animal has a bad cut and is bleeding.
- If the animal has stopped eating.
- If the animal sleeps all the time.
- If the animal ‘just isn’t acting normal'.
- If the animal seems to be favoring a body part (limping for instance).
- If the animal tries to bite you when you pet them (providing they usually do let you pet them).
- If the animal cries when you pick them up or pet them.
- If the animal has been hit by a car.
- If the animal has been in a fight with another animal.
- If the animal has developed a growth of some type.
- If the animal is throwing up and/or has diarrhea.
- If the animal begins to urinate in places where they are laying (this could mean they can’t hold it which can be a sign of kidney or bladder issues).
- If the animal changes their demeanor, for instance, if they are usually loving and suddenly become mean.
- If the animal seems to have problems relieving itself.
It would be impossible to list every single thing that might happen to an animal, so be sure to use common sense when it comes to taking your pet to the vet.
- Like the sun and windows (a cat window bed might help).
- Like to climb and observe everything from high up (try giving them a large cat tree or empty shelves for them to climb on).
- Like to sleep with the family—in your bed rather than the one on the floor.
- Like to scratch on things a lot (make sure they have something on which they can scratch so they don't scratch up your furniture).
- Are safer indoors (in my opinion)—no fight for territory, no catching supper, no exposure to diseases and no danger from wild animals (also safer from vehicles).
- Definitely need to be spayed or neutered when they are less than a year old so they don’t try to get out to mate (or urinate on your walls and furniture to let other cats know they are in heat or that this is their property).
- Need to bury their waste, whether they are inside and use a litter box or outside and use the dirt.
- Need lots of fresh water, stale water builds up bacteria and hair. Try to change the water daily if possible and be sure to clean their water bowl regularly.
- Can get poisoned by common household chemicals—floor wash, antifreeze or dishwater for example. Be sure to check any chemical you will be using to wash floors because the animals walk on the floor and then clean their feet quickly ingesting the poison.
- Get hairballs because they are always cleaning themselves and because they shed all the time, especially long-haired cats. Be prepared with a hairball remedy-sold at most pet stores and pet departments or you can feed them food specially formulated for hairball relief.
- Need to have their claws clipped regularly so they don’t hurt you, your family, or each other
- Need to be brushed regularly to help with the shedding issue. Especially if they are a long-haired cat.
- Need stimulation to stay healthy such as toys, climbing on shelves, or racing around your house. If you have more than one cat, be ready for a few knock-down-drag-out fights between them. Just keep an eye on things—if there is a scream or fur flies, you might want to spray them (I keep a clean spray bottle filled with water handy at all times) to break it up. If fighting happens too often, you might want to look for the underlying cause.
- Need to eat cat-safe greens to aid digestion—cat grass, ryegrass, and catnip are all great. If you can, try keeping pots of these plants growing (and cat handy) in your home. Note: not all plants are safe for your pet. Be sure to check with a vet before you let them eat from your plants. Better yet, keep plants that you are not sure of well beyond the cat's reach.
- Can have problems eating hard food when older especially if they have bad teeth which can abscess or make the teeth loose. This makes it hard to break up the hard food before consumption.
- Can have problems with digestion because they eat something they shouldn’t eat, like plastic or Christmas tinsel (Tinsel and string can get caught in the intestines and "knot" them up. This can kill the cat.)
- Need to visit the vet at least once a year for a check-up and their shots.
- Need to be kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If they are outside, be sure they have plenty of adequate shelter from rain and/or snow. Also, be sure they have hay not cloth in the shelter because cloth absorbs moisture from the air and then freezes at night giving your pet an ice rink on which to sleep.
Did You Know.....
- Many female animals need to drink more water when they are pregnant and after their babies are born so they can make milk.
- If a female animal appears to be pregnant, but you don't believe that they are pregnant, it might be because of worms or other parasites that are multiplying in their stomachs and/or intestines. Definitely time for the vet.
- Females, even docile ones, may fight any unknown (and sometimes even the known) animals that pose a threat to their babies (or that they think may pose a threat).
- Fixed male cats can develop crystals in their urine which can prevent them from urinating properly. There are medications and special food you can feed them to prevent that.
- Fleas can be ingested by animals and may become internal parasites.
- Fleas can kill kittens and puppies if they are too numerous. Be sure to consult your vet because putting flea products on your baby animals might also kill them. Generally, if you treat the mother, the babies will be treated as well.
- Male cats will "mark" their territory (your home) if they are not neutered. They generally 'spray' their urine to leave their scent.
- Like to be with the family on the furniture or at their feet.
- Like to eat what you eat, but they shouldn’t, dog food is best for their proper nutrition and health.
- Like to sleep with the family, preferably in the bed with you, try giving them a bed of their own to sleep on and they might not try to squeeze in with you.
- Need stimulation to stay healthy like running outside, playing with toys, and playing with family, this is very important for their health.
- Need to be spayed or neutered unless you plan to breed them.
- Need to be bathed regularly to keep their coats clean and to prevent odors from building upon them. Also helps rid the pet of parasites, such as fleas.
- Need to be brushed if they have long hair because the hair can mat. Dogs, especially long-haired dogs, shed. Brushing helps to curb the shedding.
- Need lots of fresh water, stale water builds up bacteria and hair. Be sure to change the water daily if possible and be sure to regularly clean the bowl or container.
- Need to be kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If they are outside, be sure they have plenty of adequate shelter from rain and/or snow.
- Needs hay, not cloth, in an outside shelter. Cloth pulls moisture from the air and then freezes it into ice at night.
- Depending upon the breed, they might need to wear a cloth coat when going outside in the winter. Some dogs don't have enough fur and/or fat to keep them warm. This usually applies to smaller breeds with short hair
- Can sometimes get digestion blockage due to eating something they shouldn’t have eaten, like your brand new shoes. Be sure to take your dog to the vet if you suspect they have eaten something that might be dangerous to them.
- Can get poisoned by common household chemicals—floor wash, antifreeze or dishwater for example. Be sure to check any chemical you will be using to wash floors because the animals walk on the floor and the poison can be absorbed into the pads of their paws.
- Needs to visit the vet at least once a year for a check-up and their shots.
- Can have problems eating hard food when older especially if they have bad teeth that can abscess or make the teeth loose which makes it difficult to chew the dry dog food.
Now You Are Prepared to Be a Great Pet Parent
By following the steps above—research, vet care, safety, and comfort—you can be a good pet parent. But the most important thing that your pet requires is you and your love. Without that attention and caring pets can become forgotten or neglected. Pets cannot survive without proper care and attention. So take the time to love your pets no matter what they are and be sure to keep up with the latest information on keeping them healthy.
Oh, and never assume anything about your pet. Different types of pets require different types of care so just because the vet said the girl down the road could give her pet an aspirin, it doesn’t mean you can do the same for your pet. Always ask before you give. I know you will make a great pet parent now!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2017 Cheryl Simonds
I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on October 25, 2017:
Larry W Fish you are so right about getting your pet to a vet if you aren't sure what is wrong. My rule is once the pet seems to not be themselves, the vet gets to see them. Thanks, cherylone
Larry W Fish from Raleigh on October 23, 2017:
I loved your article about being a good pet parent. I love animals with a passion and my dog is so special to me and my wife. I know there are people that are not good pet parents so I hope they read your Hub and learn from it. I adopted my dog from a shelter. She had violent seizures from epilepsy, I got her on medication and now she is much better. A year ago she got very sick and was in the animal hospital for 4 days. She also has gall bladder disease, so another medication. She is the sweetest beagle, I love her so much. Pets can't tell you what is wrong, so any doubt get your pet to a vet. Their life could depend on it.
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on March 02, 2017:
Karine Gordineer, I believe you are quite right. So many people don't know how to be a good Pet Parent. I hope this will help. Thanks for your kind words.
Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on March 02, 2017:
Thank you so much, FlourishAnyway, for the kind words. I also hope more people are responsible--not only because they will have a better pet, but because there are too many strays suffering now.
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 01, 2017:
I like that you advocate spaying and neutering. And your photos are precious. I hope your article helps encourage pet parent responsibility.
Karine Gordineer from Upstate New York on March 01, 2017:
Informative article. Some people may not realize or think about what it means to be a good pet parent.