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You may be spending a good bit of time right now finalizing — and, of course, implementing — your resolutions for the new year. Congratulations! Focusing on a happy and healthy lifestyle is a huge investment in your future.
But have you thought about what might be optimal for your best friend and furry companion? Here are some new year’s resolutions experts say can benefit you and your pet.
If your pet went on an unplanned walkabout, would your neighbors be able to call you or bring them home? Identification tags are inexpensive and available at most pet stores. Even better: The more permanent form of identification, a microchip, cannot fall off or be removed and can be a lifesaver if your pet wanders farther from home.
America is in the midst of an obesity crisis, and it’s affecting our dogs and cats. Too many pets today are overweight, said Dr. Dana Varble, chief veterinary officer of the North American Veterinary Community.
“If your dog or cat was to speak to you, he or she might admit that they are getting too many treats. ‘It is getting awfully hard to catch my breath when we play ball and my hips and knees are starting to ache,’ your dog might say.
“Your cat might give you a dirty look for allowing the vet to check their weight, and will certainly blame any extra pounds on you. ‘The fact that you give in every time I yowl, purr, or rub your legs isn’t helping my weight problem,’ your cat might say,’” Varble added.
Instead of acquiescing to those plaintive meows or soulful eyes, Varble suggests reducing the amount of food you give at any one meal or feeding. Instead, provide a smaller amount at set times throughout the day to help your pet lose a few pounds.
Is sleeping with your pets good for them?
Exercise is good for both you and your pet, Varble said. That’s easily achieved with a dog: Nearly every dog would benefit from at least two walks a day, or a good chase after a ball or Frisbee, she said.
“You need the fresh air, and your dog needs to be able to check out all the smells in the neighborhood, which keeps their minds busy and their body tired,” Varble said.
How do you exercise a cat? Some people put their fuzzy felines on a leash and go for a walk. But if that’s not for you, “find more interactive toys for your cat to chase,” Varble said. “Remember, toys are like prey. Your cat is still an ancient predator.”
Interactive toys don’t have to be expensive. A toilet paper roll, a paper bag, a crinkled ball of foil or a string you trail behind you will excite the hunter in your domesticated kitty as much as the most expensive interactive toy.
Tie feathers to the end of a stick, swing it through the air and watch your cat leap.
And of course no cat can resist the allure of an empty box, especially one that turns out to have an unexpected treat or toy in it. Consider all the memes of cats sitting in boxes; even lions, tigers and other big cats find the habit irresistible.
Both dogs and cats can benefit from mental exercise as well. Food puzzles are a great way to keep your pet’s mind engaged. The internet is full of such items to purchase, but it’s also full of DIY examples you can easily make on your own.
Cut circles in the top of a shoebox and drop in treats for your cat to fish out. Roll some treats up in a towel for your dog to unravel. Cut small holes in a toilet paper roll, put treats inside and tape up the ends — voila, you have a rolling treat dispenser. Or do the same with a plastic bottle.
(Wouldn’t coming up with these ideas also be a good human brain game?)
You like to shower and style your hair, right? A good brushing stimulates blood flow to your scalp and distributes natural oils, making your hair shine with health. Your dog and cat benefit from daily brushing — and an occasional bath — too. (Your couch will also thank you.)
Take it a step further and brush your pet’s teeth. Yes, cats need their teeth brushed too. Start when your pet is a puppy or kitten and you’ll have no issues, but with some patience you can ease your adult pet into the process too, experts say.
Periodontal disease, which is inflammation of the gums and bone that support your pet’s teeth, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in dogs. And because the kidneys and liver filter bacteria from the mouth that’s circulating in the blood, those organs are especially vulnerable to damage.
“Following a good oral care routine, including brushing teeth and regular dental evaluation with your veterinarian, can prevent these serious consequences,” Varble said.