According to the APPMA (American Pet Products Association), America spent almost $15 billion on pet food and treats alone back in 2005. While we don’t know what percentage of that is just treats, based on what I personally spend on my own pets, I’m guessing it’s approximately 25 percent (i.e., several billion!). After all, we love spoiling our four-legged companions. (Read: That’s why so many of our pets are obese. More calories does not equate to love!)
I know I’m preaching to the choir here, since your typical visitor to PetMD likely loves her/his pet(s) more than the average pet owner, but consider this a gentle reminder to spoil your pets a bit more this Valentine’s day. (On a separate note, who invented this stupid holiday anyway, and why am I always single on this day?!)
JP, who just hit his 7-month survival anniversary from his aggressive brain tumor, is my daily reminder that we should all love our four-legged friends while we still have them. Sounds fatalistic, but apparently, life is short … and even shorter if you’re a dog or cat. While I don’t want everyone to use this as an excuse to fatten up their pets (JP is excused, of course!), here are ten tips on how to splurge some lovin’ on our pets.
1. Grow catnip or wheat grass for your cats. Not only will your cats appreciate having some fiber to chew on — or some hallucinogenic fun — but it may help stave off inappropriate nibbling on your indoor houseplants, too. Heed this gardening advice, though: never plant catnip directly into the ground. It’s in the mint family, so it's highly invasive and spreads like mad (indefinitely). One summer, I unknowingly planted catnip into the ground and ended up with a whole backyard of it. Thankfully, I harvested it all, pulled it up, dried it, and ended up with several barrels worth. Dried catnip stores well and makes a great gift, particularly when given out in little bags.
2. Buy a laser pointer. Add a kitchen timer and actually commit to exercising your cat 5-10 minutes a day. Not only will it provide lots of entertainment, but it’s great for calorie-burning — and more importantly, mental and physical stimulation — for most indoor kitties.
3. Splurge on "dog beer" as a gift for your dog-loving friends. Dog beer is a beef or chicken-based glucosamine-packed (alcohol free) drink that is a funny gift for the (two-legged) beer-drinkers in your life to share with their pets. Why not? Keep in mind that real brewer’s hops (from home brewing) are poisonous to dogs, so make sure to keep those out of reach.
4. Take your dog to a pet store at least once a month. The fun smells, the joy of being able to go into a store with you and picking out one’s own bone — that’s what a dog wants in life!
5. Volunteer at a humane society or animal rescue once in a while. Doing things as simple as cleaning cages, donating some kitty litter, socializing their cats, or walking their dogs can be a big help, and you’ll be glad that you did so.
6. Take more road trips with your dog. (Provided he or she doesn’t get car sick or mind the car ride.) Escape for a dog-specific weekend just to get out of town and hike all weekend. Find a B&B that is dog friendly and make sure you all get away once in a while.
7. Scoop the litter box. As dirty and disgusting as it sounds, one of the best ways a cat owner can love up their feline is by scooping out the litter box every day. As fastidiously clean creatures, cats love a clean box and this extra step can help prevent unwanted accidents outside the litter box, or medical problems such as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).
8. Get the dog walked. On days when you’re too busy to take your dog for a walk, consider paying a doggy day care or dog walker to do it. It’s a win-win. Not only will your dog get more exercise and come home exhausted, but you won’t feel guilty about working late.
9. Splurge on a new dog bed. One unnamed company out of Freeport, Maine makes particularly great, monogrammed orthopedic beds for that geriatric dog in your life.
10. Take an extra loop around the block. Realizing that I won't have JP much longer, I’ve really cherished those extra walks and Q.T. together. He’s got such a cute butt from behind, and I’d like to imprint that memory in my head forever while he’s still here.
Dr. Justine Lee