How To Be A Responsible Pet Owner.
There are literally millions upon millions of pets in this country, ranging from fish in bowls to hamsters in cages to dogs in yards and for every pet there is an owner caring for them. Some are truly conscientious, others not so much. There are those who breed the animals for pure profit, not caring whether the pet is happy or healthy, and there are those who dote on their pet, treating it better than some people treat their children; in fact, for a large portion of the pet population they are in fact someone's child.
But what does it really mean to be responsible? Is food, water and shelter enough? Getting shots each year to prevent rabies or distemper? An occasional pat on the head, a hug, and a snuggle sufficient to fulfill the needs of that pet? Or is there more required, a greater responsibility both to pet and self? Does it stop there or is there an even greater responsibility, another step one can or should take?
Some people truly love their pets, whether it be a cuddly kitten, a tail wagging dog, a prickly hedgehog or sneaky snake. What they are matters not: what matters is the outpouring of love an owner feels for this animal. Some owners go the extra distance regarding the food their pet eats, making sure the food is healthy regardless of the cost; and buddy, there is some serious money being made in this arena.
Some dog owners have paid the ultimate price in the life of their companion when a snack made in another country to substandard quality creates an illness that is followed by a lingering death. They would have prevented it had they but known; but they simply were not aware of the problem. There are any number of good websites available that details the recalls, the concerns and the health dangers currently out there and a good pet owner will subscribe to them.
Then there are the owners who feed their pet human food, mistakenly believing this is better for them than a processed pet food. But does this human food truly provide the necessary nutrients the pet requires to be healthy? Sadly, oftentimes it does not. And so we end up with a pet that is overweight, with health issues the owner did not intend to have occur.
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There is also the hot topic involving having our pets spayed and neutered. A truly responsible pet owner who has no interest in breeding (and that should be a large percentage of us) will have their pet "fixed". This creates a healthier animal, one who is more tractable (to a greater degree) and will not attempt to roam. It also will reduce the number of unwanted animals in the pet population thereby not adding to the pet shelter problems. Cats seem to be one of the bigger issues in this regard as they breed fairly easily and quickly and a large feral population of cats can have a devastating effect on the population of other species. Oh, many will believe it is good to have a lot of cats around to eat mice and other vermin; but cats are killers of more than simply a mouse or two. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and snakes are often the target of a cat's desire to kill. Some will eat their prey; others not. A large population of free roaming cats can have a decidedly negative effect on a broad range of prey animals in a short time.
These and any number of situations like this are normal to speak about and one can find site after site to read up on, educate oneself and correct our behavior. But one avenue of pet ownership that I have not seen addressed, can (and often does) have disastrous results and that is what I would like to speak of right now.
What is this issue? Owners nonchalantly letting their pets roam freely be it in the country or city, town or village. As I stated earlier, cats roaming can and will have a disastrous effect on various smaller species of wild animals ranging from frogs and toads to lizards and snakes. But his is not the only situation that can cause a problem.
To put it bluntly, many pet owners will not clean up after their pets. Dogs doing a number two in their yard over time will build up until a neighbor has the wind shift the smell of the barnyard to their property, and suddenly a cool evening spent outside in play and BBQ ends in disgust as the scent wafts across the yard, turning stomach after stomach.
Or a game of frisbee or catch in the backyard ends as someone steps in a pile of poo left behind by a neighbor's free roaming cat. A shoe is ruined, a tension develops between neighbors all because of a pile of doo doo.
Do you let your pet roam the neighborhood?
Did it ever occur to you that your pet may be defecating in your neighbor's yard?
It has been my experience that some owners simply do not think about where their pet defecates. They feed the pet and turn it out to roam nightly, much like the Flintstone's cartoon where Fred brings in the dog and puts out the cat for the night. The cat seeks a wild thing to stalk and crosses boundaries it has no means of knowing about. When it feels the urge, it fulfills that urge wherever it might be at that moment in time, be it its owner's yard or the neighbor's.
There are also a large number of truly feral cats which have resulted from undesired breeding's or poor choices by humans that end up with a cat turned out or dumped along the road somewhere. These poor animals do not receive health care and end up with intestinal parasites that "come out" in the wash. Then other animals (dogs seem to love cat doo doo) nibble onthe "delicacies" and end up ill, sometimes deathly so. It is sad, it is unlawful and it occurs far too often.
As I said, I believe a large portion of pet owners simply do not think about this unpleasantness and frayed nerves or worse are the result. Some neighbors are hesitant to speak with the owner for fear of reprisal and in today's world reprisal can come swiftly. But I also think some owners simply do not care. Oftentimes a cat is a barely pet, one that seems self sufficient and not needing the owner as a dog does. And so the owner puts out water and food, and allows the cat to run freely about the neighborhood not caring whose yard is befouled or whose blood pressure they may be causing to rise.
And that is my message: if you are one of these owners who are not thinking about your pet roaming, maybe you should be a tad more responsible. Think about it: perhaps you need to bring your cat indoors and be a full time responsible owner. If you are feeding them, you need to be cleaning up after them. In addition, know this: your pet running the neighborhood is likely crossing streets, going through yards containing large dogs or other dangers and could become injured or worse. And then your kids will be wondering where Fluffy went to and you will have to be the one explaining why Fluffy isn't coming home. Imagine the look on your son or daughter's face if you are driving them to school the next morning and they see their pet lying dead on the side of the road up the street from your home, having been run over by a car. Do you really want this?
Then keep your pet at home! The added benefits of being a responsible owner who is a caring owner will make our pets safer, healthier and you will end up eliminating a problem with your neighbors you may not have known existed.