Thursday, February 18, 2010

What To Do About Home Alone Pets

IS YOUR PET LOOKING a little lonely and scruffy these days? February is the month of love and a great time to show Rover or Fluffy that you still care by providing him with a trip to the groomers, a favorite treat or some special attention.

Although this might seem like excessive pampering to some, one little girl lets her Shih Tzu snuggle in bed with her as a special treat. Another pet owner unwinds after work by wrestling with his energetic Pug. And many responsible teenagers get up extra early on school mornings to walk their dogs and tell them how wonderful they are. It isn’t the words, of course, but the tone of voice and the good things you do for your pet that say I love you.

Pets thrive on meaningful attention that isn’t easy to get when mom and dad are at work all day and the kids are away at school. Even the most adorable kittens and puppies given as gifts for Christmas can find themselves home alone and starving for human interaction. By February the cute little critter you purchased is on the way to becoming an adult at a time when exercise is increasingly important but harder to get. Veterinarians have said that dogs, in particular, need exercise, exercise, and more exercise throughout February and March when people often pull back on walks because of dreary weather.

Feeding pets on an “ad-lib basis” often goes along with a lack of exercise. Although fresh water should always be available, leaving bowls of food in front of pets all day leads to unhealthy, overweight animals. I have read that the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association recommends two to three meals fed to growing pets daily. However, this should dwindle to one or two meals daily at 12 to 15 months. And although table scraps and between meal snacks are to be avoided, some vets suggest ten percent of your pet's meal can arguably be from the kitchen table to show Rover he IS part of the family.

Most pet owners know that giving chocolate to their scruffy Valentine is a bad idea. Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaloid closely related to caffeine that is toxic to dogs and cats.

"Killing your pet with kindness by overfeeding and under exercising is like giving the kids five dollars to rent a movie instead of taking them skating," says one vet. "Kids who don’t flop in front of the television after school show true affection simply by taking their pets for a walk."

The alternative is problems, especially in hyper dogs. I was surprised to learn boredom can lead to scratching, a “pleasurable” form of pain that is not always flea induced as it seems. Pets not only chew themselves, they can chew your carpets and sofas if they don't get the chance to run and play. For home-alone pets, doggy doors and professional dog walkers are a practical solution, if location and budget permit. Involving your pet in a training program to stimulate intelligence, keeping your pet clean, providing medical care, and taking time to understand your pets nutritional and activity needs is equivalent to a bouquet of flowers and shows you care.


  1. You're so right, Penelope.
    Our golden retriever, Lindimus Maximus, sits on the couch with me for a couple of hours every night during our TV time. With his recliner pulled up close to the couch, my husband brushes her strawberry-blonde curls while we watch TV. Our programs now include Dog Tales, which Lindy likes to watch because the dogs sometimes bark, and she also likes to watch them run around and play. As for food, she gets good dry dog food, plenty of water and, to her delight, raw vegetables as treats and snacks.

  2. All I can say is lucky Lindy to be rescued from a shelter by you two!

  3. A good reminder, Penelope. There have been only four dogs in my life, Sparkie for 12 of my school years, Kim for 18 years, Scott for 16 years, and now, little Black Jack. Fortunately, I have learned to understand a little more about the very important points you make, with each of them doing their best to be my teacher. I'm not sure if I missed it, but is there a pet, possibly a new pet, at your house?

  4. From fish to gerbils to rabbits, pets have been part of life forever it seems, Carol. The picture you see is of our dog and good pal who passed away a couple of years ago at an elderly age. It is the first time we haven’t had a pet in years but who knows what the future will hold!


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