The Objects of My Affection
By Sarah Merz
Meet Sadie and Smokey, my surrogate children. Now, before you roll your eyes, please know that I do not dress them up in kitty outfits or put bows in their fur. But I am guilty of talking to them and caring for them with a maternal instinct. Did you know that, according to a 2007-2008 survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Americans own more than 88 million cats and 74 million dogs? That means there are a lot of you out there just like me.
Pet ownership comes with a set of care and maintenance responsibilities that are not unlike the responsibilities of caring for humans. These responsibilities can easily get pushed down the priority list or overlooked altogether without a plan. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your loved ones happy and healthy.
• Pick the same month each year for the annual vet visit—and stick with it.
I find it easier to keep on track with annual checkups if I schedule them for the same month every year. May is the month for my annual physical; June and December are teeth cleaning months. I make a note on the monthly tabs in my planner and try to schedule next year’s appointment as I leave this year’s appointment. Do the same for your pet. As a two pet owner, I schedule the appointments for both of my cats back-to-back, so I only experience the guilt and trauma of indignant meows once, even if it’s in surround sound.
• Prepare for the seasons.
A little preparation in the beginning of each season goes a long way toward the well-being of your pet. Make notes in your planner to remind you to take a few easy steps as the seasons approach.
o Summer – According to the Humane Society of the United States, heartworm disease can be transmitted by mosquitoes, and the summer heat also brings fleas and ticks. Please make sure you have consulted with your vet on medications and treatments.
o Winter – If you live in a cold weather climate and let your pet outdoors, please plan on having adequate shelter from the wind. Replace metal containers with plastic or ceramic as your pet’s tongue can stick to cold metal. Keep anti-freeze in a secure location where your pet cannot reach it; the sweet taste may appeal to them and could be toxic.
o Holidays – Fireworks and pets don’t mix. If your community shoots off fireworks on July 4 and New Year’s Eve, try to keep your pets inside. Also keep your pet inside and away from the candy bowl during Halloween. Sad to say, black cats are susceptible to pranks.
• Clean your pet’s home as regularly as you clean yours.
Like me, you probably have your own routine for house cleaning. Sunday is laundry day, Thursday is house cleaning. Don’t forget to include your pet’s belongings in your weekly routine. Vacuum out pet beds regularly, before they take on a life of their own. Wash removable bed covers, and wash out the water bowls with a little vinegar to remove calcium buildup. Not only will your house smell better, but you will also have an advantage against any little critter issues, e.g. fleas.
• Groom your pet about as often as you go to the salon.
I confess, I hate brushing my cats. Petting is an everyday activity but brushing is not something I think about. So I try to groom my cats during the same week as I get my own haircut. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but at least I try. The Humane Society recommends grooming “often.” You be the judge.
• Make pet care a critical part of your vacation checklist.
Cat owners have it easier than dog owners in this aspect. Cat sitting has become an important contributor to my godson Jack’s fun money. I leave a separate labeled envelope for each day’s “earnings” and trust that he picks up only one envelope per day. He learns the value of keeping commitments, and the cats get some play time and fresh food each day.
Many of these tips are common sense. Please send in your suggestions. As a fellow pet owner (“mother”), I am all ears. Also, check out The Humane Society of the United States’ website here. It’s full of great information.
Thank you Sarah!
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