Who’s your most reliable Valentine?
Right, it’s your pet. Fluffy never complains about your cold feed on long winter nights. Fido never picks the holiday of romance to announce he needs his space and wants to see other people.
You show your furry, scaly, feathered friends love every day, but for February 14, you may
want to do something extra. Something easy that won’t break the bank.
If someone in your life has a pet, make them part of the celebration too. Many of these ideas make practical gifts for friends and family. Even pets you don’t know, people you never met, could use your tender attention.
- Exercise your dog more. Research shows that walking is good for both of you. And bump it up a notch by walking on a balance board. To make those strolls even more effective, consider a canine fitness tracker like this fashionable bow tie from WonderWoof: https://www.wonderwoof.com/
- Take your cats in for an annual checkup. Cats are very good at hiding illness and pain. It’s easier on them and cheaper for you to catch problems before they get out of hand. If you don’t have a regular vet, ask your cat-loving friends where they go. Some clinics are certified by the American Association of Feline Practitioners as Cat Friendly Practices. See if there’s one near you. http://www.catvets.com/cat-owners/find-vets-and-practices
- Give a local rescue group your time, money, supplies, or expertise. Animal shelters always need help finding homes for the animals in their care. You can volunteer to socialize (cuddle) pets, update the donor list, or write marketing copy. Many private groups are run by hardworking people who pay for every bag of food out of their own pocket. Give them a hand. You can help animals on your own by making a shelter out of a plastic storage container for a feral cat. Here are some easy directions: http://www.alleycat.org/ShelterGallery#easy
- Learn how to take great pet & wildlife photos. Whether you use your phone’s camera or a fancy DSLR, you can get photos that capture your pet’s personality. Get on their level, wait for the right moment, and turn off your flash. And you don’t have to be a professional to snap a pic of a gorgeous cardinal at your bird feeder or a bunny in the backyard. You might even use your new skills to take portraits of older shelter dogs to improve their chances of finding a new home. Here are some tips for getting the shot you want. http://digital-photography-school.com/9-pet-photography-tips/
- Give your favorite animal lover a personalized gift using one of your photos or theirs. If your photo is sharp and clear, have it enlarged and frame it for their office or apartment. If it’s just a cute picture from your phone or one you downloaded from their social media page, have it put on a mug for their favorite hot beverage. Nothing shows more thoughtfulness than recognizing what other people value–Grandad’s furry hiking buddy or your neighbor’s budgie pal. Most big drug stores and print shops handle photo gifts. Here’s another site with ideas from puzzles to pillows. http://www.personalcreations.com/personalized-picture-frames-pphofrm?REF=PCRSRCHgoog_brand_mt_e_d_c_kwd_personal+creations&q=photo
- Help your cat make friends with people. Cats have not lived with humans as long as dogs have, so they are often less comfortable with people they don’t know. Because they are mostly indoor pets, cats have fewer chances to socialize. Many kitties hide whenever guests appear, or worse, hiss when someone tries to make friends. You can fix this. Make encounters with new people a reason for your feline friend to celebrate. Cuddle your pets, give them treats when visitors stop by. Get your guests involved. Have them play with any kitty brave enough to come out. Fishing pole toys are perfect. Cats love to chase the streamer, which makes your friend feel special too.
- Make a DIY cat condo. The internet is full of pictures of cats coiled like a spring in some barely-big-enough box. Cats love snug spaces. You can whip one together out of old an upside down side table draped with fabric, or stacked cardboard boxes taped together. Here’s a design for a tent made of a worn tee shirt and a couple of coat hangers. Your cat will probably jump in as soon as he spots it, but if not, entice him with a catnip toy. http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-cat-tent/?ALLSTEPS
- Set up a fish tank in a local nursing home and volunteer to take care of it. Research has shown that older people eat more if there are animals around. Other studies show that contemplating a fish tank reduces anxiety. Check with your local senior residence and ask if they’d like to have a tank of colorful fish. This would make a perfect group project. Get your friends or your teen group to raise funds to buy the equipment and to care for the fish.
- Take your dog to visit petless neighbors who would love the contact but not the responsibility. Dogs are great icebreakers. They put people at ease, lower blood pressure, and give you something to talk about. Think about your family. Who doesn’t get enough friendly touch? Which of your neighbors reminisces about her childhood dog? Ask if next time you visit you can bring your well-behaved pooch. You might be surprised at what you learn about their current interests and past lives.
- Stimulate your pet’s mind and body. Enroll in an agility class with your dog. Take a clicker training class and teach your pet a behavior that will make them healthier, safer. Feed your cat from a puzzle bowl or hide their food around your apartment so they can hunt it. Get your parrot a safe toy or offer music that will inspire their big brains.
There you have it, 10 ways to show your love for pets and pet lovers. What’s your favorite way? Send us a picture of you doing something special for the pets in your life.