The Animal Welfare Bill has highlighted the importance of ensuring that animals are treated fairly in British households. Owning a pet is an exciting and significant responsibility, and it is a pet owner’s duty to keep their animals entertained and stimulated in order to promote their mental and physical health. All pets, whatever their environment, be it country or city, need to receive physical and mental stimulation as well as regular and positive interaction with their owners.
New pets are an exciting new addition to the family, and immediately become the centre of attention. However, before getting a pet, it is important to remember that your pet will need your care and attention throughout its life and not just when it is very young.
The Pet Health Council has compiled its top tips which explain how to play with your pet and why it is important.
1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! – Playing games with your pets from an early age, and throughout their life, will teach them to respect and listen to us. It is a great way to teach them that we are in control from a friendly perspective. Make sure you decide when the game starts and stops, and decide what the rules are.
2. Good boy! – Reward your pets if they are behaving well. Never shout at or punish them if they are being naughty as this could have a detrimental effect and make them fearful of you.
3. No fear – Socialise your pet from an early age and get it used to its new environment – as well as different noises and people. Experiment with different games so it can get used to a range of shapes and objects and how to deal with them. Simple sights and sounds can simulate and entertain your dog as their ears are very sensitive, plus there are special CDs available to help your pet get used to the sounds of fireworks and thunder for example. Playing these to your pet reduces the chance that they’ll be frightened of them later on.
4. Home Alone – Give your pet something to do when it is left at home on its own. An activity toy stuffed with some tasty food will help to keep it occupied. Activity toys will stop your pet getting bored and allow it to channel its energy into positive rather than destructive actions, such as ripping furniture or even biting. Leave the radio or TV on in order to distract them. There are special videos and DVDs available to keep cats and dogs amused.
5. Productive pets – Playing games will help your pet to overcome behaviour problems such as breaking toys, chewing furniture or even biting.
6. Busy bunny – Give your rabbit the opportunity for lots of exercise – keeping it in a small hutch
can result in physical and psychological damage. Rabbits are very curious and love to leap and run around. Provide a hutch with a run as well as offering regular exercise outside the hutch. Also, the lonesome bunny is an increasing problem. They are a social animal, if not kept in social groups then they need interaction with us.
7. Friends for life – Pets that are in contact with a range of different people from an early age are more likely to be friendly and open to new visitors. Is it also important for pets to learn about other animals and species that they could encounter in the future. You can do this by spending some time in an outdoor area where they can learn to socialise with pets and people. For example, even if you don’t have a cat, introduce your puppy to a friend’s cat, and get it used to sheep, horses and other livestock from an early age.
8. Cool cat – An active pet will be better at managing stress naturally. For instance, with your cat, you can use toys that imitate prey. This will encourage action in even the most anxious of cats. Hide dried food around the house for your cat to find during the day or hide some in a shoebox with holes cut in the side so that it has to ‘hunt’ for its food. Cats need to hunt so make sure that suitable games are available to cater for this natural instinct.
9. Curious nature – Get your pets used to nature and their environment. It is not only how much you play, but also where you play that matters. Getting your pet used to different environments will help them cope with new situations in the future.
10. Puppy love – It is important to train your pets to be child friendly from when they are young. If you live in a household free from children, remember you may have children to visit at some point. Get your pet to interact with children of all ages, whilst always remembering to supervise. Children can be a bit rough and a pet can only put up with being pestered for so long – it hasn’t got the ability to say, “You’re stressing me, please leave me alone!” Attend puppy socialisation classes – they are good fun for you as well as your dog and remember your pet is more inclined to learn when it is still young, so start early.
11. A bond for life – Ensuring you spend quality time with your pet will increase the strength of the relationship between the two of you. Play their favourite game on a regular basis, but remember to introduce new games and toys to keep things interesting for them – and you!