The special bond between man and pet can’t be explained – you need to experience it to truly understand and appreciate it. That special bond can easily lead you to feel like they’re more human than a completely different species, which in turn can lead you to neglect their very different primary needs. To be the best pet owner you can be it’s important to remember the differences between their dietary, physiological and emotional needs.
Firstly, consider your pet’s diet. Dogs and cats require more protein daily than humans do and cats even more so than dogs. Even if you enjoy the most balanced of diets do not fall into the trap of thinking this same diet would be suitable for your pet. Even if your pet was with you 24 hours a day, getting the exact same nutrition as you, it still would not satisfy their vastly different requirements. Your best bet is to feed a commercial prepared, balanced pet food that benefits from scientific research in the creation of its formulation. Better yet, feed a PFI (Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa) member brand so that you can rest assured that the food is manufactured to international standards, with your pet’s wellbeing as a primary concern. There’s a brand to suit every budget so buying a PFI member brand ensures that you are giving the best that you can afford.
Not only do our dietary needs differ but so does the manner in which we process our food. Humans take 1-2hrs to digest food whereas dogs take up to 12 hrs. This means that feeding times should be less regular than our own to avoid unhealthy weight gain – twice a day is ideal to maintain blood sugar levels, whereas cats are generally better at monitoring their own food intake if freely fed as their behaviour is more geared towards consistent energy intake. However, with our modern lifestyle some cats need to have their intake monitored for them, in which case feeding twice daily is also recommended.
Just as humans need daily exercise to maintain holistic health, so too does your pet. Taking brisk 40 min walks everyday with your pet helps its body to release beta-endorphins, increases serotonin metabolism in the brain and keeps your pet physically fit and strong. However, unlike humans, when it comes to rest your pet needs on average about 14 – 17hrs a day.
Lastly, your pet’s TLC needs are different from ours. Being social creatures they need to spend a good amount of time with people or other animals to keep them happy. Leaving a pet in isolation for long periods of time can cause depression and stress – both of which make your pet physically unwell. Companionship also creates an opportunity for rules and routine to be established, which pets thrive on. When setting rules remember that pets learn by association, so they’ll be quick to continue behaving in a certain way when that behaviour has a positive outcome. When training your pet be sure to look out for behaviour that you approve of – rewarding this with treats, praise and attention will encourage them to offer it more often. Plus, the feedback you give will assist in developing a form of communication between you and your pet.
A lot can be said for the differences between our physical needs and that of our pets – and the more we come to learn and understand what our pets really need, the happier they’ll be. Increasing the amount of natural activity that they engage in will do well to improve their mood, so be sure to think about all of their chew, lick, sniff, catch, fetch and play needs. And meet these needs often for a happy and balanced pet.