The first step in your efforts to enhance these interactions is to assess your current level of personal contact. Perhaps the best way to achieve this is by making a list of the typical weekly interactions you engage in with your companion animal. Once you create the list, grade yourself by asking whether or not you could, or should, be doing more.
If you’re unsure what you might do to enjoy quality time together, don’t worry - here are some tips for making the most of your time together and the best of your pet’s time alone. Consider incorporating any or all of these in your daily life …
Set aside a few minutes in the morning to groom your cat or dog. While brushing or combing, talk to them about your plans for the day. If your pets don’t enjoy grooming, spend a few minutes just petting and praising them. Whatever your daily morning interaction, try to do it at same time and in the same place. Your companion will find comfort in the regimen – and so will you.
Leave something that smells like you, like a pillow case or a recently-worn shirt, on or near your pet’s favorite spot. Your four-footer will find your scent reassuring during your time away from home.
If you have an answering machine, call home when you’re away and talk to your pet. Hearing your voice can be reassuring to them during your absence.When you return home after a long period away, greet your companions as if you’ve only been away for a few minutes and then do whatever chores are most pressing. Afterwards, do something that he or she will enjoy, like (if you have a dog) a game of catch, hide-and-seek, or take a long walk. No matter what you do together, be sure to tell him or her how much fun you are having. If you have cats, we recommend playing with a ball or using a fishing pole with dangling feathers – you know your cat loves the chase! It’s important to dedicate this time to your pet alone, so consider leaving your cell phone in another room if you’re indoors, or indoors if you’re outside. Take it from me – your undivided attention makes a big difference.
Incorporate teeth cleaning, ear cleaning and/or nail trimming into your new routine. Too often, these health necessities are viewed grudgingly as chores. Commit to making this time as fun as possible. It helps to think of these activites like time at a spa.
Massage is a wonderful way to connect with your companion animals. Check out one of the many pet massage books currently on the market to help you develop a technique that’s easy on you and feels good to them. There is evidence to suggest that massage can improve your pet’s health, and it may even relax you, too.
Whatever you choose to do to improve your relationship, even if it’s just one of these suggestions, will help you and your companion animal to lead more fulfilling lifetimes.
Thank you for all that you do to make a better world for your companion animals,
Dr. Jane Bicks