Thu, Feb 09, 23
Bringing home a pet can add immeasurable joy to your life, but that doesn’t make it easy. Caring for your dog or cat is a responsibility, just like any other.
You’ll have to work to keep your fuzzy friend happy, healthy, and entertained. You will sacrifice time, money, and energy to ensure your pet gets everything they need. In return, you’ll have a faithful companion who brings a smile to your face every day — and what’s more rewarding than that?
Keep in mind that every pet is unique. Dogs and cats might overlap, but they still require different kinds of food, exercise, and environments to thrive. Your pet might have unusual nutritional or health needs.
Whether you’re a first-time pet parent or just looking for a refresher, we have the answers to your pet care questions. Read on to find out how you can help support the animals in your life.
Where Will My Pet Stay?
Whether you’re still in the planning stages or just brought home a new puppy, you’ll have to answer a few key questions quickly. For example, it’s important to figure out where your pet will be spending most of their time.
There are many options, depending on your home and the space you have available. Some pets alternate between indoors and outdoors, while others live exclusively indoors or are limited to a few rooms.
Let’s look at the space you’ll need for a dog or cat and how to best prepare your home for their arrival.
Your dog needs a safe, quiet, and comfortable place to sleep. Ideally, their bed should be indoors, shielded from the elements, and kept at a comfortable temperature. This will ensure your pooch doesn’t get sick from being out in the rain all night or injured by another animal if they’re locked outside — while dog houses may be a nice commodity for outdoor time, dogs should have a bed inside the house, too, where they can safely sleep each night.
You can purchase many different types of dog beds, depending on your dog’s size and preferences. Crates are another common choice because they provide a den-like environment that your dog may find comforting.
If you crate train your dog, you can keep them in their crate for several hours when necessary. Crate training is great for potty training and can give your dog a sense of structure and comfort.
Again, providing your dog with some outdoor space is a great idea, too. A fenced-in yard is perfect for your pup to run off some energy at playtime.
Cats love small, enclosed spaces where they can hide, so make sure your cat has at least a few cozy beds, boxes, or other caves to explore.
We recommend keeping your cat indoors, since outdoor cats have a much higher risk of dying from disease, other animals, or automobile accidents.
Cats also have natural climbing skills and instincts, so a cat tower is often a great idea. A cat tree will give your cat a spot to perch and survey the house and some posts for them to scratch.
Does My Pet Need Exercise?
All pets need regular exercise to help support their wellness and happiness. There are plenty of options for exercising your pets, and some will allow you to stretch your legs as well.
Walking the Dog
Dogs have a lot of energy and enjoy sniffing new places. Some breeds particularly enjoy long walks and will often take the opportunity to investigate everything that crosses their path. Depending on where you live, be aware of when it's too cold to walk your dog!
We recommend taking your dog on a walk once a day, or at least allowing them to run around in a yard or enclosed dog park. If you take them for a walk on the local beach or nearby park, your dog should stay on a leash unless they’re in an enclosed, safe space. Letting them roam free runs the risk of injury or possible conflicts with other animals or people.
You can also play with your dog by tossing a ball around, playing fetch with a stick, or starting a game of tug-of-war with a tough rope. There are lots of great dog toys available in any pet store, so feel free to experiment and see what your dog prefers.
Cat and Mouse
Cats have natural instincts to chase and pounce on small animals. One great way to give your cat some exercise and enrichment is by dragging around a piece of string or small toy. You can also roll around a ball or flick a bottle cap or hair tie across the floor (with supervision).
Some cats love batting small objects around the house, while others prefer to stalk a shoelace for a few hours. Giving your cat one or two play sessions every day will keep them from getting bored. It’s a great opportunity to bond with your kitty.
In addition to toys, every cat needs a scratching post. If you don’t provide them with a place to sharpen their claws, they might use your carpet or furniture instead, so we recommend giving them a few options. Pads of corrugated cardboard and posts covered in sturdy rope are two popular choices.
How Often Should I Groom My Pet?
If you’d like to care for your pet’s fur, there are a few things you can do to support the health of their coat and skin. Let’s take a look at the best grooming practices for dogs and cats.
Different dog breeds have different grooming needs. Of course, if your dog has rolled around in something stinky, you may need to sneak in an extra bath.
Otherwise, you can bathe your dog yourself or take your pup to the groomer as needed. Make sure not to over-bathe your pup — the natural oils in their fur protect them from fleas and other irritants!
Brush your dog’s coat regularly to help keep it clean and shiny. You can also take this opportunity to check for parasites like ticks or fleas.
Keeping Your Cat Clean
Cats do a pretty good job grooming themselves, and a healthy kitty will spend hours licking itselfthemself daily. This keeps their coat healthy, removes dirt, and cools them down. You can help by brushing your cat frequently, which many cats enjoy.
As you can imagine, cats and water don’t usually mix. However, there are some circumstances where you might need to bathe your cat — for example, if their fur is covered in something dangerous to ingest or they’re starting to have difficulty grooming themselves.
You can clip your cat’s nails regularly, every other week or so. If you have trouble clipping their nails, try waiting until they are sleepy and doing one nail at a time.
What Food Should I Feed My Pet?
Nutrition is vitally important to any pet. Choosing the right high-quality food will help support their health for years to come. For that reason, we recommend researching and choosing pet food with wholesome, nutritious ingredients.
Your pet will love the taste, and they’ll get everything they need from a complete, balanced recipe designed with their wellness in mind. Remember that your pet needs access to fresh water just as much as you do.
Whether you have a dog or cat, they should always have access to a water bowl that’s refilled once or twice daily. This is especially important if you live in a hot climate or your pet primarily eats dry food.
There are so many dog foods on the market that picking a good one can be tricky. You’ll want food with plenty of protein and meat as the first ingredient to ensure your dog gets all the essential nutrients they need. We've also created a guide to help you navigate what ingredients to look for in pet food!
If you’re looking for quality dog foods, Optimeal® has plenty of options designed for dogs of every shape and size.
We recommend our Tender Morsels In Savory Sauce With Chicken & Lamb recipe for dogs with sensitive stomachs, which contains highly digestible protein and fiber.
Puppies have different nutritional needs from adult dogs, so it’s important to do your research. Choose a dog food that will fulfill your dog’s requirements in every stage of life. Our Vital Nurture Turkey & Oatmeal recipe is a great choice for any puppy. It supports brain development and healthy growth and is easy on the digestive system.
These are just two of many lines and formulas we have — you can explore the rest of our dog food collection here!
There are plenty of cat foods, but the best ones aren’t always easy to find, either, with a lot of very cheap, low-quality options being the most commonly available options, too.
We recommend checking the ingredients list and making sure your cat food contains meat proteins as the first few ingredients — after allcall, cats are natural carnivores!
Taurine is an essential acid that cats need to get through their diet, so make sure your cat’s food contains enough taurine to support your kitty’s eyes, heart, and growth. Feeding at least a portion of wet food once in a while will also ensure your kitty stays hydrated.
If you’re looking for nutritionally-balanced cat foods, look no further — you can explore our cat food formulas here. We have recipes designed to support immune health, skin health, weight management, kittens and adults alike, and more.
What Kind of Bathroom Does My Pet Need?
Unfortunately, pet ownership doesn’t always smell like sunshine and roses. At some point, you’ll have to get your hands dirty. With that in mind, here are the best bathroom solutions for your pet.
If you have a large backyard, kennel, or access to green space, allow your dog to head outside and take care of business every few hours. Puppies will need to go more frequently, but adult dogs can usually be trained to go a little longer between bathroom breaks.
For dog owners without a yard, we recommend taking your dog on frequent walks and bringing a roll of doggie bags. If your dog poops on the sidewalk, in a park, or in someone else’s yard, be sure to clean it up.
While some people like to offer potty pads, this is an invitation telling your pup it’s okay to “go” inside the house — you’re better off having someone walk your dog in the middle of the workday if you’re unable to, or installing a doggy door that goes out to a secured, fenced-in yard.
Cat Litter Box
Cats will naturally train themselves to use a litter box, as long as you provide it. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to have as many litterboxes as you have cats, plus one. If you have two cats, that means a minimum of three litterboxes.
If you want your cat to keep using their box, you should clean it daily. Kitties don’t like getting their paws dirty, and you’ll help keep stinky odors to a minimum.
When Should I Take My Pet to the Vet?
Whether you have a dog or cat, we recommend giving your pet a wellness checkup at least once per year at your local vet clinic. This is the best way to look out for your furry friend’s wellbeing.
By making an appointment with a local veterinarian, you’ll have someone to consult for any health problems your pet might develop. They can also keep your dog or cat up-to-date on vaccines, stay on top of dental care, and monitor them for any issues that might not be immediately obvious. You can look into a microchip and spay or neutering information too.
If your pet is feeling sick or displaying concerning behavior, you should get them to the animal hospital as soon as possible. They’re your best resource when it comes to your pet’s health.
Responsible Pet Parenting
You might find yourself challenged by pet ownership in ways you never expected. However, you also might discover some of the happiest moments in your life when you come home to a happy dog with a wagging tail or a sleepy, purring cat.
Pets take plenty of effort, but they’re more than worth it. If you keep your buddy’s health and wellbeing in mind, you’ll have a loyal friend and adorable companion to brighten your day.