Let’s get a dog! They are so cute! Or a kitty! I love kitties! If this is you, take a breath and contemplate the following:
How often am I home? On average, we work 8 hours, sleep 8 hours, and another 4 or 5 are taken up with cooking/eating our meals, errands, computer time, socializing away from home, and if you have kids-kids. This leaves about 3 or 4 hours out of every 24 we can devote to our pets. It is not enough. Dogs and cats are stoic creatures who often accept physical pain, under-stimulation and loneliness as their lot in life. They are so glad when we come home and forgive us every slight, including a life spent mostly alone, making it all the easier for us to convince ourselves we are good pet parents.
We can get around all this lonely time for our dogs in a variety of ways. Get up earlier and go for a longer morning walk. Turn that 10/20/30 minutes into an hour. It will be good exercise for us too! If we can take our dog to work for some of the time, let’s do so. Hire a dog walker to come to our home around lunchtime and take our furry friend for a juicy, love infused walk. Set aside play time in the evenings and at least another hour long walk. Make much more time for our pet on the weekends. It is not enough to let him or her out in the backyard and go about our human business. They deserve more from us, and if we can’t deliver, it is unfair and selfish to bring a dog into our homes.
With both dogs and cats, life is easier if there are two of them. They need to be friends of course, and it in no way makes up for 20 hours alone each day, but it helps.
A common misconception with cats is that they are ok mostly on their own and do not require much from us. While it is true that we can easily over-look our cat’s sadness, mistaking it for aloofness or indifference, be assured our cats need us too, and not just for lap time. Find out what toys they like and play with them every day. Invest in some cat nip. Play games with them. I have several friends who have bought leashes and harnesses for their cats so they can let them out in the garden or on the balcony.
So many cats spend their whole lives inside, and the joy we see in them when they can sniff the air and feel the wind through their fur is incredible. My cat, Piper, will jump right up on our TV consul, blocking the screen, and meow, reminding us we have not yet played with her today, but she is this bold only because we have made it clear we are there for her. Most of the times, cats and dogs will just sigh and go lay down somewhere, allowing us once again to be reassured that they need us less, as they sleep so much. Animals do not normally sleep this much. They are doing it because it is their only option, and half the time they are merely laying there and waiting, hoping hard we will notice and come to them.
So the next time we feel the impulse to bring an animal into our homes, let’s take stock and make sure we have the time and energy to create a happy life for them. They are furry family members, and while we go out every day and interact with the world around us, for our pets we are their world. Let’s make it a good one.
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Samantha Bennett is the co-owner of the pet care business Soinsmillepattes, and has taken many critters under her wing from dogs and cats to hedgehogs, ferrets, birds and reptiles. She has cared for them in her own home and in the homes of others, and learned much through hands on experience. This column is a space for simple, useful directions, tips and information designed to keep animals safe and happy.
Samantha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org