Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are 10 ways to show your pets you love them, without even spending any extra money!
- Commit to a time each day that you will play and engage with your pet. This could mean something like walking your dog in the neighborhood or park, or having your cat chase a feather teaser toy around the house. Playtime is fun for your pet (and you!), it deepens the human-animal bond, and it can help decrease behavior problems that come from boredom or a need for attention.
- Make more time for snuggles. Curling up on the couch next to your dog or cat (or with them in your lap if they enjoy that) will be soothing for you and your pet.
- Many pets love to be brushed (especially cats), so build in some time for grooming. Some pets actually need this help with grooming so the fur does not develop mats.
- Praise your pet whenever they do something right! Praise can mean giving them a treat, but it can also mean petting them and giving them affection and verbal praise. Positively reinforcing good behavior will lead to more of that good behavior! And, when they do something wrong, find a way to redirect them into something right so that you can still praise them.
- Take time to have a training session with your pet. Challenging your pet to perform tricks and tasks can feel like playtime to your pet, and they will enjoy the interaction. Obedience training is important for dogs to understand appropriate behavior and how to listen and take commands from their owners. Yes, cats can be trained too – even though most people would say the cat trains the person!
- Give them a special (pet safe) treat, or add in some canned food to their dry kibble if they like that. You can find some suggestions here about human foods that are safe to feed pets.
- Speaking of treats, we do need to be mindful about our pet’s weight. Remember that you are completely in control of what (and how much) they eat. Just as it is important to give our pets proper nutrition so they are not underfed, it is equally important that we take care not to overfeed our pets. Obesity is a huge problem with pets that can lead to a number of medical consequences and problems. An easy way to show our love for our pets is to help them stay at a healthy weight!
- Rotate toys every few days so they think they are getting new toys. This keeps you from having to continually buy new toys, but it also adds to their environmental enrichment and stimulation.
- Make a new toy by finding something around the house. For cats, this could be the plastic seal from a milk jug or playing fetch with a plastic bracelet (as long as your cat won’t eat these toys!). You can even ball up a piece of paper and watch your cat chase it around. For dogs, grab a tennis ball from the garage and play a game of fetch. Or, if you have a toy that can also hold food in the middle, add some peanut butter into the middle for a fun treat. Dogs and cats both can find great pleasure in chasing a laser pointer!
- Give them a cozy place to rest and get away from the noise. Take an old pillow and make it your cat’s new bed. If your dog or cat already has a bed, make it even cozier by adding an old blanket or towel on top.
All in all it’s pretty easy to show our pets how much we love them. Of course they need their food, water, and shelter, but they also need time with, and affection from, us…and that will make them feel incredibly loved this Valentine’s Day (and every day)!