Are you a responsible pet owner? |

Are you a responsible pet owner?

Last week’s article noted that February is the “official” Spay and Neuter Month for pets. Well, it turns out that February has a few more pet-related celebrations: Responsible Pet Owners Month, National Pet Dental Month, Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week, Pet Theft Awareness Week, Love Your Pet Day and Spay Day USA. Today’s article is about responsible pet ownership of dogs and cats.

What does it mean to be a responsible pet owner? First and foremost, it means commitment for the lifetime of your pet, whether dog, cat, bunny, ferret, rat or whatever critter you’re drawn to. We at CAPS certainly accept the fact that sometimes the lifetime commitment will be unintentionally broken (for example, the owner suddenly dies), and our hearts go out to the family, both two- and four-legged members.

What the shelter staff doesn’t like to hear is a voice on the other end of the phone line saying “I have to get rid of my dog/cat because . . . (some reason that blames the pet).” In most instances, pets are not at fault, but the owners are. Perhaps they didn’t take the time to train Fido to heed commands or housebreak him. Or they didn’t fully comprehend the lifetime commitment part.

Being responsible is having Fido and Fluffy spayed or neutered. (Last week’s article covered this issue.) If your four-legged pal has been spayed/neutered, thank you. You can also help out by encouraging family and friends whose pets haven’t been spayed/neutered to do so. If your pal is still intact, please have the surgery done. Untold thousands of unwanted puppies and, especially, kittens are euthanized daily in our nation.

When your new furry family member comes to live with you, set up an appointment with a veterinarian to check out your buddy. Be sure he gets all the needed vaccinations. Standard inoculations are locally available at several stores, so you can vaccinate your pet yourself, at a lower cost (exception is for rabies, which a veterinarian must give).

If you can afford it, have your furry pal microchipped so that you’ll have a better chance of getting her back should she get lost. If microchipping is not an option, be sure to have ID tags on her collar, with your name and phone number. Also, your pal will need veterinary care at some point in her lifetime, so try to regularly tuck away a little money to help cover future costs.

Feed this family member high-quality food and treats. Jenna Stregowski, RVT, states this succinctly: “Do not feed generic/economy dog food to save money. Low-quality diets can cause poor health in the long run. If you cannot budget for premium dog food or a holistic/natural diet, consider a homemade diet” ( A quick, online search found many sites for healthy pet-food/snack recipes.

Being responsible also means that you take the time and interact with Fido and Fluffy. Bonds cannot be made or strengthened if you ignore this family member. Your interaction can also count as exercise, which our buddies need. So, walk Fido and play fetch with him. Discover what activity that Fluffy finds fun and play with her every day.

And who likes “rude” dogs? Nobody, so be responsible and train Fido to heed commands. This also falls under the umbrella of interaction. If you can afford it, place your pooch in doggie daycare at least once or twice a week. If you can’t, then it’s your job to train him, just like it’s your job to rear civilized children if you are a parent.

Cats don’t especially need training, but they do need socialization. Without it, Fluffy probably will be aloof and not the snuggler you were hoping for.

Finally, keep Fido and Fluffy safely confined. A fenced yard or other area is ideal for Fido; a life on a chain is no way any dog should have to live. Fluffy should be an inside cat all the time for several reasons: the declining songbird population, vehicle-caused deaths and, especially in the county, packs of roving dogs or coyotes.

This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.