We all want to be the best pet parent that we can be. That means doing the things big and small that make our pets feel safe, loved, and special. In no particular order, here are the things that you can do to show your pet just how much you care.
1. Play with them. Sometimes you come home from a long day at work and all you want to do is relax. But your pet hasn’t been working—they’ve been waiting for you! Even if you’re totally wiped, spend quality time indulging your pet and interacting with them.
2. Don’t overdo the treats. There’s a fine line between a proper and excessive amount of treats. Limit treats to when your pet has really earned one, such as during training and after walks.
3. Let them sleep in your bed. Curling up next to their humans at night helps pets feel safe and cozy. Give them a chance to spend their most vulnerable time with the ones they love the most.
4. Turn to professionals when necessary. There’s nothing wrong with not being able to do it all. If you need a helping hand when it comes to behavioral issues, or even basic grooming, there are plenty of experts available to help.
5. Pay attention to body language. From your cat’s tail to your dog’s ears, minute changes in body language have big meaning. Do some digging into the research so that your pet can effectively communicate what they need.
6. Don’t tease. Just like humans, animals internalize the way that others communicate with them. You wouldn’t make fun of your non-fur kid, so don’t do it to your pet.
7. Keep their things clean. Everyone deserves clean things. Regularly wash your pets bedding, towels, leashes, collars, toys, and food and water bowls to prevent bad smells and the spread of germs.
8. Introduce variety to their diet. Can you imagine eating the very same thing, meal after meal, year after year? Mix up your pet’s food by alternating flavors and adding pet-friendly toppings like certain fruits, veggies, and herbs.
9. Turn on nature’s TV. There are few things more entertaining for your pet than watching the birds, squirrels, and great blue sky. Always make sure your pet has access to a window, and consider installing a bird feeder nearby to make things even more interesting.
10. Visit the vet regularly. Routine and preventative care are the secret to a long, healthy life. Schedule annual wellness visits and don’t just go when an emergency strikes.
11. Use positive reinforcement. Reward your animal when they do something right, and resolve situations when they do something wrong. Never harm or scare your pet in order to entice them to act a certain way. It won’t work, and it’s not humane.
12. Bake/cook them something special. There are plenty of pet-friendly recipes ranging from super simple to more advanced, and we’re sure your pet will be happy to taste test while you figure out the ones they like best.
13. Give them their own spot. Pick a quiet place with minimal foot traffic to put your pet’s bed and toys. Even better, pick a spot near a window so they get ample sunshine, fresh air, and a look at what’s going on outside.
14. Exercise your pet’s brain. Mental stimulation is as important as physical for a healthy and active life. Keep your pet’s brain activated with games, food puzzles, and other activities that require them to do some thinking.
15. Don’t answer aggression with aggression. It’s your job as a caretaker to mitigate—not reinforce—negative situations. Stay calm in instances of aggression, doing everything you can to safely resolve things without adding fuel to the fire.
16. Keep a routine. Pets thrive on routines, and most days should follow a similar pattern. Keep meals, walks, and other important daily activities on as regular a schedule as you can for your pet’s comfort and peace of mind.
17. Be mindful and present. Sometimes you just need to put down the phone, turn off the TV, and give your pet some extra love and TLC. Your undivided attention will go a long way.
18. Brush their teeth. Get a finger brush, some yummy flavored pet-safe toothpaste, and gradually get your pet comfortable with daily brushings. Finish with a dental treat so they know it’s all worth it.
19. Feed high-quality food. Read our advice on reading pet food labels, and evaluate whether your pet could be eating better. There’s quality food on all ends of the budget spectrum, it just takes a little research to know what the best fit is.
20. Provide plenty of fresh air. Dogs should have more opportunities than just quick in-and-out potty times to breathe in the goodness around them. And for indoor cats, open windows (those with sturdy screens) so they can catch a breeze, too.
21. Celebrate special days. Your pet won’t know if you miss their birthday, but why not have an excuse to spend a day showering them with even more love than usual? Make them the star of the day on their birthday or “gotcha” day—they’ve earned it.
22. Trim their nails. Nails that are too long interfere with balance and navigation. If you’re nervous to trim your pet’s nails yourself (and no harm in that), schedule regular trims with your vet or groomer.
23. Explore new places. Whether you head to the forest preserve, the beach, or just another end of town, let your pet experience what for them will seem like a whole new world.
24. Adopt a companion. Many dogs and cats are social creatures who would really benefit from a furry sibling to spend their days with. If your pet seems lonely or bored, consider adding to your family by adopting them a friend.
25. But if your pet prefers to be alone, respect that. Sometimes what we want and what is best for our pet are not the same things. If you want another animal companion but your little one has already made it clear they prefer being the only fur-child, honor their wishes. Or, choose a pet they won’t directly interact with, like a fish, iguana, or a hamster.
26. Learn the signs of pain and sickness. Dogs and cats often actively hide pain and discomfort. Pay attention to appetite, mood, and how your pet is carrying himself, and if you think something might be wrong, don’t hesitate—head to the vet.
27. Spoil your pet (within reason). Indulge your pet with toys and treats occasionally, but don’t make it so that your pet expects a new goodie every single time you head to the pet store for a bag of food.
28. Leave them at home when it’s the right thing to do. If you’re heading somewhere chaotic, like a street festival or other crowded outdoor event, consider whether your pet might be happier at home in the peace and quiet.
29. Let your pets be themselves. Our animals have their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. Embrace who they are, quirks and all, instead of trying to change them.
30. Be smart about people food. You are in complete control over your pet’s diet. Don’t offer something that’s bad for them just because they’re asking to try it. And if you have a “counter surfer,” be sure to put food away and out of reach.
31. Keep them leashed outside. Even the best behaved pets could get hurt or hurt someone else when off-leash. Unless you’re in a designated off-leash area, be cautious and keep your pet leashed and by your side.
32. Don’t just stress over anxiety—treat it. There are many methods that could be helpful, from training support to medications to CBD treats, so do your research, meet with your vet, and create a plan to provide relief. Practice patience—it may take a few tries to see what works best.
33. Pay attention to your own body language. Be conscious of how your body speaks to your pet. If your stance is putting out negative vibes, relax your muscles, take a breath, and give your pet a warm smile. You’ll both feel better.
34. Consider your pet when making plans. Spend real, quality time with your pet, even if it means turning down an invitation or two.
35. Don’t yell at them. Yelling at your pet doesn’t convey anger so much as it does a lack of security and control. Stay calm, even when it’s difficult.
36. Recondition fearful responses. Don’t just accept fear. Take active measures to combat fearful situations and make them more positive. It could be as simple as visiting the vet’s office occasionally just to grab a treat from the counter, or trying an anxiety aid during thunderstorms.
37. Keep music and TV at a reasonable volume. Loud noises can be jarring for pets. Keep volume at a reasonable level, or provide your pet with a quiet spot away from the noise they can retreat to. Be especially sensitive to holidays and other times of year where fireworks are popular or thunderstorms are more common by closing the windows and staying in the quietest area of your home.
38. Keep it sunny. Sunlight is important for keeping moods elevated, so open those blinds and let the rays shine in.
39. Bring the outside in. Plants and flowers make for happy homes and pets. Just do your due diligence and research every single plant before bringing it in to make sure it’s cat and/or dog safe.
40. Rotate toys. Seeing the same toys everyday can get old. Keep toys on a rotation so there’s always something fresh and new in the bin.
41. Recognize boredom and fix it. Boredom can affect a pet’s mental and physical health and may lead to bad behavior. Watch out for tell-tale signs, and remedy quickly with exercise, toys, companionship, or puzzles.
42. Let there be sniffs. Dogs see the world their noses. Every once in a while, take your dog on a smell-o-vision walk. Let them stop and sniff everything they want, without pulling them away. Don’t focus on distance—just fun!
43. Schedule regular dental checkups. Dogs and cats are prone to gum disease, tooth fractures, and other scary oral health problems that might only be diagnosable by a vet.
44. Try a harness and leash on your cat. Some cats love living a more “dog-like” lifestyle. Try a harness and leash on your cat and give them a chance to safely explore the outdoors with you.
45. Set clear boundaries. Teach your pet what you expect—don’t just assume they’ll figure it out. Repetition and consistency is the key.
46. Be vigilant with preventatives. Providing flea/tick and heartworm medications shouldn’t be left to memory. Add reminders to your calendar so you don’t forget.
47. Don’t encourage begging. If you don’t want your pet to beg at the dinner table, don’t feed them from your plate. Your pet won’t remember the 400 times you didn’t give in, but they will remember the one time you did.
48. Take introductions slow. Just like people, not all animals get along. Avoid potentially dangerous situations by keeping introductions with other animals slow, supervised, and in neutral locations.
49. Fine…spoil them just a little. Our pets give us so much. Every once in a while, pick them up a special treat or toy just for being themselves.
50. Love them unconditionally. Because they do the same for us.