As Thanksgiving approaches we are often reminded that we should be thankful for what we have - friends, family, home, and hearth. But perhaps we should also take stock of why we should be thankful for our pets. Our furry friends bring us such joy throughout the year. Besides the happiness (and occasional anxiety) that pet-ownership brings, there are also numerous health benefits to living with an animal companion.
Whether your pet is a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, or ferret, studies have found that people with pets have lower blood pressure and lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than the pet-less. Pets, it seems, are preventative medicine against heart attacks, high blood pressure, and a range of stress-related disorders. Pets definitely make are lives fuller and studies suggest that they could in fact make our lives a bit longer.
The holidays are all about spending times with those you love – your family, your friends, and those furry (and feathered friends) that many of us consider family. It’s only natural that you’d want to include Fido or Fluffy in on the fun, but holidays can be a dangerous and stressful time for pets. Many holiday foods that you enjoy are harmful or even toxic to pets, some pets do not deal well with strangers (especially those not used to interacting with pets,) and often our favorite holiday decorations can be holiday hazards for animals.
I can remember the day that I brought Lothario, my first male kitty, home from the animal shelter. He was so small he could fit in the palm of my hand and had been weaned weeks too early. His mother, a mottled calico cat, was left at the shelter with her litter of eight kittens and the kittens, so much in demand in the spring, had been separated from their mother early to give them a better chance at adoption. I didn’t come to the shelter to adopt a kitten. My other cats, Pepper and Licorice, were well into their teens and had no desire to baby-sit. But Lo instantly captured my heart with his perfect pink paws and over-long whiskers. His ears and tail were so huge compared to the rest of his kitten frame—almost as if they anticipated the eighteen pound cat that he would one day become. I picked him up and cradled him against my heart the entire ride home and after a while I could feel him stop shivering and start to purr.
No matter what time the first crocuses bloom in your neighborhood, it’s those small changes that mark the beginning of spring and not a date on the calendar. For me, it’s the first appearance of bunnies in my yard, buttercups blooming, and the first real chance to clean the winter’s debris out of my flower beds and garden and start planning for the new growing season.
My veterinarian is retiring. He’s been my pets’ vet for many years and the fact that I drive more than an hour each way so that he can treat my six-pack of cats says a lot about the excellent care he and his staff provide. I’m very picky when it comes to my pets’ health care, as most pet owners (hopefully) are about the care of their own furry friends. And I tend to be a bit of a nervous Nelly when it comes to health care in general. I’m signed up for recall alerts and I spend some time each week surfing the AVMA’s website to find out about the latest breakthroughs, vaccines, and treatments.