Even if you’re not the type of person that typically makes New Year’s resolutions, it can never hurt to make a few promises for the coming year about how you’re going to be a better pet parent and animal advocate. Look at our list of New Year’s resolutions for animal lovers, and see if you can incorporate some of these easy-to-make changes into 2014.
1. Adopt, don’t shop. Pet overpopulation is a major issue in animal welfare. Each year, six to eight million animals enter shelters, and three to four million are euthanized because they cannot find homes. If you plan on adding a new pet to your family this year, make the responsible decision and head to the shelter instead of the pet store. Before you go, read up on these tips for making the adoption process go smoothly.
2. Be a voice for change. There are a ton of ways that you can speak up for animals––vote on animal-related issues in your community, spread awareness about animal related causes on your social media pages, hold a peaceful protest, write a letter urging people to spay and neuter their pets to the editor of your local newspaper, etc.
3. Shop cruelty-free. Making a huge difference can be as easy as opting not to buy products that test on animals or contain animal ingredients. Here are some resources to help you make the switch to cruelty-free consumerism.
4. Get your pets moving. If you’ve made any sort of commitment to get healthier yourself this year, why not include your pets? Pet obesity is a national epidemic, and can lead to injuries and decreased life spans for overweight animals. Read up on the pet obesity problem and then check out these tips for exercising your pet when it’s cold out.
5. Learn how to recognize and report animal cruelty. Being able to identify when an animal’s wellbeing is being compromised is a skill that all animal lovers should have, and there are a variety of physical and environmental signs that you should know to look for. This article will tell you what to look for and what to do if you see an animal being treated cruelly.
6. Schedule an annual vet check-up. If you haven’t yet, make sure you set your pet up for a healthy year by scheduling a check-up with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to examine your pet for any health issues and can assist you in making sure your furry loved one is as happy and healthy as can be. Just in case, read up on how to get your finicky kitty to the vet.
7. Don’t throw out old towels or blankets. Instead of tossing out gently-used towels and bed linens, drop them off at a shelter. Your old items will go a long way towards keeping a shelter pet warm, cozy, and clean. Even better, organize a shelter drive and get your friends to donate their own used items. Here’s a list of 10 things you can donate to a shelter so you know what to collect.
8. Take more photos. You will never regret having too many pictures of your pet. Not a top-notch photographer? No worries––here’s how to take better photos of your pets.
9. Volunteer. There are few things more rewarding than donating your time to helping animals in need. This year, seek out an organization whose missions speaks to you and get involved. A website like Volunteer Match can help point you in the right direction. If you decide to volunteer at a shelter, here are ten things you should know.
10. Be kind to the planet. Part of loving animals is showing respect for their environment (our environment, too!). Here are 10 ways to go green and create a better world for you and your pet.
11. Brush your pet’s teeth more often. Proper dental care is key for your pet’s well-being and health. Make a promise to yourself and your pet that you will take better care of their little chompers this year––this should include scheduling yearly professional dental cleanings (stick to ones that don’t use anesthesia) and doing preventative maintenance like frequent brushings. Check out these tips for minding your pet’s dental health.
12. Don’t shop at pet stores that sell puppies. Take the puppy mill pledge and refuse to support any pet store that sells puppies. Responsible breeders do not sell their animals at retail pet shops, so unless a store is actively selling rescues (which, thanks to organizations like The Puppy Mill Project, many are starting to), refuse to give them any of your business.
13. Meet other animal lovers. Make an effort to expand your social circle and meet some fellow animal lovers this year. Visit our Events page to learn about animal-related happenings going on in your city, start a pet blog, or simply spark a conversation with someone new at the dog park.
14. Educate yourself. Knowledge is power––make an effort to read up on pet care topics and animal welfare issues. Not only will you become a better pet parent, you’ll also turn yourself into a better advocate for all animals. Reading books, blogs, and magazines, watching documentaries, and following animal-related news stories are all great ways to stay up-to-date on the important topics.
15. Play more. This is one resolution that all of us could stand to make for a happier and healthier year, and if you’re a pet parent, what better way to play than with your furry (or feathery, scaly, or slimy) friend? To get you started, here are some active games to play with your energetic puppy and ideas for entertaining your indoor cat.
16. Foster. If you have a little bit of extra space, time, and love to spare, why not take a foster animal into your home? Fostering helps keep the population of homeless animals down, decreases euthanasia rates, and increases adoption rates. Shelters are always in need of foster parents, and who knows, you may meet the next little love of your life. Think this might be for you? Check out the 411 on being a pet foster parent.
17. Keep it clean. A little pet hair never hurt anybody, but sharing your home with pets can lead to a extra mess and chaos. Keep your space and your mind at peace by taking one hour a week to pick up toys, vacuum, launder pet beds, and do whatever else you need to do to make sure your home is fresh and inviting.
18. Teach your pet a new trick. No matter how old your dog or independent your cat, all pets can benefit from training. Not only is it a great way to keep your pet on his best behavior, training provides an excellent bonding opportunity and is a ton of fun for your four-legged friend. Make sure to only train positively (meaning stay away from dominance-based approaches) and you’ll have your pet rolling over in no time. Here are our top 12 tips for training your dog.
19. Practice proper grooming. All animals can benefit from regular nail trimmings, brushings, and baths. If you’ve found yourself slacking when it comes to grooming, now is the time to make a change. If you’re not comfortable picking up the clippers yourself, read our pet parent’s consumer checklist and learn what to look for in a groomer.
20. Donate to animal causes. Animal welfare organizations are in need of donations that go beyond used items and volunteer hours. Consider donating a set amount of money to a shelter each month, dropping off extra food at a pet food pantry, or bringing your dog or cat to donate blood at local vet offices and animal hospitals. There are always creative ways you can make a difference.
21. Go vegetarian, vegan, or just observe meatless Mondays. Vegetarian and vegan diets go a long way towards creating a better world for animals and for your fellow humans as well. Not sure you can give up meat? Try making a promise that at least one day a week you will go meat-free. Here are some additional tips for healthy living and conscious eating.
22. Upgrade your pet’s toys. When is the last time you really took an inventory of what is going on in that box of toys in the corner? Start fresh by tossing any toys that are un-safe (such as those made of plastic, which can easily break into shards or toys like rawhides which can pose choking hazards). If your pet has toys that are in good condition but just don’t get played with very often, collect them and drop them off at a local shelter. Replace those rawhides with these safe chewing alternatives, get crafty and make some DIY toys for your kitty, and invest in some interactive toys (like these for dogs or these for cats) that encourage play and encourage your pet to use her brain.
23. Get smart about traveling with your pet. When it comes to traveling with your pet––whether it be in the car, on a plane, or just a hike in the wilderness––safety is the most important factor to keep in mind. Check out air travel 101, plus 5 tips for safe car travel.
24. Be at one with nature. A large part of respecting our environment is learning how to interact properly with wildlife. The first step? Know the importance of keeping your hands to yourself. Also read up on the potential dangers wildlife can pose to pets, as well as those that pets can post to wildlife.
25. Whip up some homemade treats. Love to get your hands dirty in the kitchen? Making homemade treats and meals is an excellent way to have fun, spoil your pet, and provide some healthy alternatives to commercial pet food products. It’s easy to find recipes on the web––like these delicious treats your pet will be wagging about for days.
What animal-related resolutions are you making for 2014?