It is estimated that around 80 per cent of Australian households have pets, with dogs and cats being the most common types. We love having companion animals in our lives for many reasons and many of us consider them to be one of our best mates and important members of the family.
Most pet owners will be able to pin point a time in their lives when they needed a friend and their special pet was there for them. They have a knack for being a comforting presence and positive uplifting company which can help us through times when we are feeling down or just having a bad day.
A report put together by Beyond Blue and Deakin University in 2010 found that caring for and having contact with pets encouraged owners to spend more time outdoors and socialise, added meaning to their lives and generally enriched and enhanced their sense of well-being.
With Victoria recognising mental health issues this week, we thought we could use this chance to return the favour to our much loved family pets.
How to keep a happy healthy pet
When considering introducing a new pet into your home and life it is important you consider factors that could potentially affect your pet’s wellbeing, or you need to consider what it means to be a responsible pet owner.
- For a dog can you commit to a minimum of 45-minutes each day throughout the year to exercise and training?
- Is your home adequate to the needs of your pet? Is the pet you are considering best suited to a house with a big back yard, or will a small courtyard be ok?
- Do you have a stable lifestyle? For example, will you be travelling or moving house frequently? Do you plan to introduce a new child to the family? Remember dogs can live up 10 to 15 years on average, while cats can live in excess of 18 years.
- Can you make the financial commitment? A dog costs around $1,800 per year without any large vet bills, and $1,200 for a cat.
Once you have introduced your new pet to your home, it is important to understand that your role as an owner does not stop at merely feeding and going out for a walk. You need to be able to interact with your pet time and give them plenty of your time, it is also crucial that you are in tune with your pet’s mental health.
Cats and boredom
Cats like dogs can also benefit from exercise but in most cases you only need to provide them with the opportunity to be active, for example in an outdoor cat enclosure. Typically it is your presence in your home they value most but of course lots of TLC too.
- Give your cat a pat: Most cats love a good pat and affection for a good reason! Like dogs they are companion animals so enjoy time on your lap, a scratch under the chin and a smooch around your legs. Some cats also respond to a good chat!
- Scratching post: Cats need to scratch regularly to sharpen their claws, get rid of dead skin and to exercise and keeps them away from your furniture.
- The Power of Scent: Cats love to rub up against furniture, your legs and anything they can reach to spread their scent. Make sure you encourage this as it makes cats feel secure.
- Toys: Indoor cats will benefit greatly from toys as they don’t go outside to hunt and exercise. Almost anything can be classed as a cat toy. It is crucial though that you are cautious the toy isn’t too small- you don’t want it to be a choking hazard for your cat.
Always consult your vet
Remember, these are general tips and always consult your vet for specific information relating to your pet.