Many people think that looking after animals is simply a question of making sure they get fed.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case – there is far more that goes into providing a good level of care for your animal, especially the larger ones like cats, dogs and horses.
Firstly, you need to understand your animal in the greater scheme of things. Cesar Milan talks about this extensively in his dog training program, that to really understand your pet, you need to think of them in this order:
- the species (eg dog – and what the purpose of a dog is: companion, hunter etc)
- the breed (eg labrador – bred for tracking, sports)
- the gender (eg female – hardwired to breed and serve a master)
- the individual (eg Peggy – personal history, gender/breed/species imperatives)
At the very core of every animal is the imperatives of their species, their breed and their gender. These are the things, great and small, that they are hardwired to do. Only when you have considered each of these things does the question of the animal’s individual experience come into play. It is, of course, an important aspect, but is more meaningful in the greater context of the animal’s existence.
Next up, appropriate food. Feeding a dog or a cat a vegan diet is not at all in the animal’s interest – you cannot be a responsible pet owner and push your own ethical or personal views above the biological requirements of the animal. Dogs and cats need meat in their diet. Horses and rodents need vegetables and the like. Birds need seed, fish need worms and bugs. Feeding your animal what is has evolved to eat, and in sensible amounts, is key in taking good care of it.
Finally, giving the animal shelter and love. Some pets are best living outdoors, some do better indoors. Small animals should not be left outside in very hot weather, and nor should they be left out in the freezing cold. Larger animals like dogs, cats and horses are better equipped to deal with the elements but still need proper protection from the extremes. They also need love and attention – don’t get a pet if you don’t want to interact with another creature.
They rely on you, and you’ve got to be up for the ride.