A pet’s welfare needs

You can meet a pet’s basic welfare needs by giving it food, water, ventilation, and by protecting it from injury or ill health. Taking care of your pet also means meeting a pet’s emotional needs, too.

Remember these basic needs, so your pet doesn’t suffer from:

  • thirst, hunger, and an unhealthy diet
  • discomfort
  • pain, injury, and disease
  • fear and distress

Let your pets express their natural self.

Remember that depending on your pet’s age, breed and individual quirks, you will need to consider different needs.

Behavioral needs

Even if they were domesticated a long time ago, both cats and dogs still have a natural urge to express behaviors linked to their evolution. A behavioral “need” is best defined as an animal’s natural tendency to behave a certain way—something the animal can’t help doing. If animals can’t express these behaviors, they get frustrated. Giving them a chance to express these natural behaviors will boost their mental health and stave off bad behavior.

Dogs adapt well to life in family groups, and most dogs prefer not to be left alone in the house for long periods. Destructive behavior, barking, and going to the bathroom inside the house are signs that they’re unhappy being left alone. It’s critical that a puppy or new dog learns to cope with being left alone. You can do this by leaving them for short periods of time—or just in a different part of the home to start—and gradually leaving them alone for longer.

Cat behaviors like scratching, hunting, and bursts of activity come naturally to them. Cats scratch to keep their claws in good condition. Scratching also allows cats to communicate through scent and vertical markings.

Building the bond

Both cats and dogs can form deep emotional bonds with humans. Positive human contact is usually healthy for pets—maybe even more so than contact with other animals.

Human-animal attachments can improve pet owners’ quality of life, too, and the benefits are greatest when the attachment is strong. There are many ways to build and strengthen the bond:

•    Plan enjoyable time together. Relationships are built on spending time together and sharing experiences.

•    Communicate clearly. Cats and dogs tend to focus on body language rather than speech. When training, use consistent signals. Good communication is the basis of a strong bond.

•    Use treats responsibly. Giving cats and dogs pet treats is a great way to encourage bonding and good behavior when training them.

•    Invest in training. Well-trained dogs enjoy life more and are a pleasure to have around. Training also helps reduce dogs’ frustration, since it’s easier for trained pets to understand what’s expected of them.

•    Learn about pet behavior. Take time to understand body language and facial expressions that might indicate happiness or stress. If pets feel they can rely on their owner for protection, they’ll feel closer to their human sidekick.

•    Provide plenty of personal contact. Grooming and stroking doesn’t just feel good for pets—it also helps owners feel more relaxed. Affection, routines, and meeting a pet’s essential needs will strengthen your bond.

Training

Well-trained pets are an absolute delight to live with. They can be more involved in their family’s life—they can go into other people’s homes and even come along on vacation. For dogs, this also means more freedom to run wild and spend less time home alone. A well-trained pet is also easier to keep safe and behaves safely around others—children, most importantly. Training should help a dog understand how to make good choices. It’s essential to provide them with these choices, a safe haven in the home, and a person they trust when away from home. This approach helps them deal with the unexpected and unfamiliar.

There are several key skills and attributes that help a dog live a good life:

•    confidence

•    being able to cope with surprises and with being touched

•    self-control and dealing with frustration

•    being calm

•    learning what is expected of him or her

•    being able to respond to requests

•    good manners

•    making the correct choices in different situations

When home training, try to be calm and consistent and keep sessions short to make sure the dog doesn’t get overwhelmed or bored. Rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior is particularly effective in dogs. Learning how to respond to basic commands such as “sit,” “lie down,” “stay,” and “back off” are important for safety—particularly when out walking. Good recall when off the leash and good leash walking are essential for quality time outdoors.

Exercise and play

It’s important to tailor exercise to each pet. For example, a puppy’s development can be slowed down by long walks, and dogs with joint problems benefit from short walks to keep the affected joints mobile and flexible without overtaxing them. Always pay attention to the weather, and take special care to ensure your dog doesn’t get too hot or too cold.

Encouraging play is a fun way to promote good health and strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Play is stimulating and good for the body, and it helps pets express their natural behaviors.

Here are five top tips for fun, safe play:

1. Choose playtime carefully—the best time for play is often when cats and dogs are well rested and eager for human attention.

2. Give lots of praise and encouragement—this helps make the experience fun and rewarding.

3. Encourage appropriate play—avoid scratching or nipping, and stop play immediately if pets behave badly.

4. Have fun, but avoid overexcitement or chasing—particularly when kids are around.

5. Keep play at ground level to avoid jumping up.

Bathing and grooming

Regular bathing and grooming are essential for maintaining good skin and coat, though different breeds or types of dogs and cats have different needs. Longhair cats and dogs can develop mats in their fur, resulting in tightened skin and discomfort. Shorthair dogs require grooming about once a week and baths once every six weeks. Shorthair cats need grooming only occasionally, and some may never need bathing. Other dogs can be groomed as required, with some long- or curly-haired breeds needing daily grooming.

Here is a list of tips to help you choose a good groomer:

•    Look around and judge the condition of the equipment and practice.

•    Make sure the place is safe and secure.

•    Select a groomer who seems likely to respond well to your pet’s behavior.

•    Find out whether the groomer requires dogs to have up-to-date vaccinations—if not, look elsewhere.

•    Ask to see qualifications and whether the groomer is a member of a professional body, if one exists.

•    If in doubt, look elsewhere.

Microchips and tags

Cats and dogs need to have some form of ID so they can be found if they ever stray from home. A collar with an engraved tag showing a telephone number is one of the best-known forms of ID, though these can be easily removed or lost. When travelling, remember: different countries, different laws, so make sure you know if your pet must wear visible ID at all times.

Microchipping—a more permanent form of ID—is increasingly common. It’s a simple, safe, quick, and relatively pain-free procedure in which a vet inserts a microchip just under the skin—usually at the base of the neck. The microchip is then registered in a database with the owner’s contact details. If a pet goes missing, the owner can notify the microchip database, which will then issue alerts to local vet and other animal authorities.

It’s become more common to scan stray dogs, increasing the chances of lost pets being reunited with their owners. To be effective, the system relies on up-to-date contact information—it’s critical for owners to update their information when they move. Microchips do not have GPS and can’t pinpoint where a dog or cat actually is.

House cats

As more people move into cities, more pet owners keep their cats exclusively indoors. Cats can spend on average between sixteen and twenty hours a day sleeping. As long as they have access to food, water, places to sleep and hide, and a litter tray, cats can have a great time indoors. Indoor cats are especially happy if they have opportunities to exercise and be their natural selves.

They also love to climb and jump. They relish being high up, where they feel safer and can better observe their environment. Vertical surfaces for climbing (cat trees and climbing poles), high platforms for sitting and observing, comfy spots for sleeping and resting, places to hide, and scratching surfaces all help create a wonderful environment for an indoor cat. Food puzzles and other fun feeding methods can stimulate an indoor cat’s natural hunting instincts.

Safe travels

Make your car journey with your pet fun for the whole family, and take the right steps for safety! It’s important to make sure to keep the pet secure while riding in the car is so the driver doesn’t get distracted. It will also help keep everyone safe in the event of an accident, or if the driver has to brake suddenly. For dogs there are a number of options: you can use a crate or guard rail that keeps them in the backseat, or a harness that can be combined with a seatbelt adaptor. For cats, a carrier that’s purpose-designed for them, is roomy and well-ventilated, and secured in the car, avoiding direct sunlight, works well. Some dogs love to stick their heads out of a moving car window. However, it puts your pet in danger of an injury from a passing object, and the wind can cause eye and ear problems. Don’t forget that in any long ride, take regular toilet breaks and leg stretches.

Here are five top tips for safe car travel, especially on hot days:

1. Think about it – does your pet really need to travel?

2. Take a supply of cool water

3. Make sure your pet stays in the shade and has enough space to move around freely, away from direct sunlight

4. Plan multiple stops in case of a long trip, so your pet can stretch their legs, rest and drink

5. Your pet may start panting, be disoriented and excessively thirsty, because of the heat. If you’re concerned, move the pet to a cool area and try to cool them down with cold water and cold wet towels. Consult with a veterinarian right away.

Saying Goodbye

The end of a pet’s life is heartbreaking. Someday you’ll need to determine whether you can really care for a cat or dog in pain, discomfort or distress. Vets are prepared to discuss end-of-life care options and help owners make compassionate health care decisions. A vet will be sure to look at the pet’s level of comfort and best interests as well as his or her specific needs. These may include more home care, relieving pain, easier access to food and water, less movement within the home, and a stable environment.

Owners can prevent as much suffering as possible by discussing with a vet right after learning that the pet is terminally sick, rather than waiting until its final days. This also gives everyone in the family time to agree on decisions and come to terms with the situation.