Whether due to habit or lack of information, here are ten of the most commonly made errors that most pet parents make, and why it's in your and their best interest not to make them again!
1: Not thinking the decision through thoroughly
"Get a dog," she said, "It'll be cute." And now you're stuck waking up every morning at 6 am to take that happy, slobbering pooch for a walk. Or maybe it's just you at home, and not very often. Maybe you travel a lot, and that furry ball of love is left home without anyone to play with. Pets are a big responsibility, a real commitment. They require your time, your patience, and your love.
Most people don't consider the full ramifications of owning a pet, and that's a huge mistake. Because what's going to happen to that lovable friend when "things just don't work out" between the two of you? This is a living being, and you need to consider all aspects of owning a pet before taking it upon yourself and put it upon him (or her).
2: You don't set the rules
While gnawing on shoes, scratching up the couch arm, and peeing on the carpet don't sound appealing to you, these are natural activities for most pets. So if you don't set up the parameters and train your furry friend early on, don't expect them to know the rules of the house instinctively.
Training pets can be as simple as telling them, "No" in a strong manner, or it may take more dedicated techniques, rewards, and repetitions, but it's important for maintaining a peaceful atmosphere around the home. That is, unless you enjoy sinking your toes into an inch of urine as you slide on your favorite sneakers.
Bear in mind that if your pet destroys the house, or misbehaves because they're bored, guess who's fault it is? Yours! You can't expect an animal to maintain composure and stay well-behaved when they're alone for 10 hours a day, missing the social interaction and physical activity they need.
3: Not giving them enough exercise
While people are painfully aware of their need to get their bodies moving frequently throughout the day, most pet parents don't extend the same fitness rules and motion to their furry friends. They let them lounge around all day, content for them to laze about. But pets need exercise just like the rest of us. Lack of exercise can lead to obesity, respiratory problems, and heart conditions.
A brisk walk for dogs, a frenzied game of catch the birdie for cats, a few minutes of soaring around the living room (closed windows please!) for birds, a stroll over their wheel for hamsters, whatever. Just make sure your pet is getting the appropriate amount of exercise every day.
4: Skipping important vet visits and treatments
From heartworm treatments to dental health, to annual shots, pets come with their own to-do list that far too many pet parents simply neglect. A lot of people think it's ok to wing it and forego these important treatments. But they're wrong. If you care about your pet, then you need to take care of their health and wellbeing. Not only will this enhance the value of their daily life, but proper healthcare will also lengthen an animal's lifespan. Which means more cuddles, runs in the park, and general time enjoying each other.
5: Not having pet insurance
Just the words "pet insurance" may sound like a joke to some people. But in truth, it's a lot more serious and relevant than some pet owners would think. Think about it this way. Your golden retriever runs into the street and collides with a kid on a bike. Now his leg is broken. What do you do? Well, if you don't have pet insurance from a reputable provider, you will end up paying thousands of dollars to have the leg x-rayed, set, checked, and healed properly. If you do have pet insurance, you breathe a sigh of relief and pay a fraction of the price. Yes, this is definitely one of the more costly mistakes people with pets make. Usually only once.
6: Choosing the wrong food
You wouldn't dream of feeding fish pellets to your Black Lab. So why do pet parents think it's ok to just grab a bag/can/box of generic food off the shelf and assume it'll be right for their pets? Different breeds, sizes, health conditions, life stages, and dispositions require different types of pet food. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can just feed your pet whatever food is convenient and it won't have consequences. Quality ingredients and proper nutritional value are important for pets just as they are for people.
The wrong food also includes overfeeding. While we all have this innate desire to keep our loved ones well fed and happy, having a constantly stocked food bowl is actually a big disservice to your pets. That's because domesticated animals don't have the same self-control that (most) humans do. So if the food is there, they'll probably eat it, putting on loads of excess calories. That's bad news for pet health and can cause diabetes, joint problems, and poor heart health over time.
7: Not keeping tabs on their water
Dehydration is one of the most common problems that bring pets to the veterinarians. It's easy to overlook this aspect of pet care, especially when you're busy. But animals need a constant supply of fresh water in ample amounts in order to prevent serious urinary tract and kidney problems. Worried they'll pee everywhere? See the above section on training, buddy.
8: Ignoring ticks, fleas, or ringworm
We've already talked about general healthcare, but this one is even more insidious. Ticks, fleas, and worms are common among many types of pets. But pet owners often fail to check for and treat these nuisances, which is a major mistake. Why? Because guess what. Aside from it being cruel to your pets who are suffering from these blasted bugs, you can catch it too! These annoying pests are a lot more dangerous than people would imagine. Ticks can cause skin irritation, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Worms can cause digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting. Fleas can even spread bubonic plague to humans. That's some serious sh*t!
9: Not neutering or spaying
The idea of snipping their tip makes you cringe, and that prevents a lot of pet parents from neutering or spaying their pets. But that's a mistake. Fixed animals have been shown to live longer than their free-spirited counterparts. Females won't go into heat, and males will stick closer to home. Additionally, neutered males will exhibit less aggressive behavior and have lower rates of testicular cancer. Female pets have shown fewer cases of breast cancer as well. What's more, fixing your pet can prevent the tragic euthanization of thousands of helpless animals who are put down every year.
10: Misreading body language
Aside from the fact that misreading your pet's body language is preventing you from bonding with and giving them what they need, it could be potentially dangerous as well. For example, your dog wags his tail, and you assume he wants to play. But really, Fido is wagging his tail as an act of dominance or as a threat. Heading in for a game at this point could get you a large bite on the arm from an irate pup.
Treat Them Like They Really Are You Best Friend
Our pets are our best friends. They're there for us when we're feeling down, bored, or in need of a friendly face. And we've taken it upon ourselves to love and care for these little guys for life. So let's get it right! Avoid these common mistakes, add healthy helpings of love and affection daily, and you can consider yourself a darn good pet parent today.