Author: Kellie Hayden
New Year’s Resolutions aren’t just for people to accomplish their personal goals! This year, we’d like to encourage pet parents to make a new year’s resolution with their pet’s mental and physical wellbeing in mind. In this article, we’ll provide some suggestions to get you started.
Support Healthier Eating Habits for Your Pets
New Year’s Resolutions about adopting heathier eating habits don’t have to be just for people. Our little ones also need to maintain a healthy diet in order to increase their chances of living a longer and healthier life with us.
- If you’re feeding your pet any junk foods, now is the time to wean your pet off of junk food. While we all want to share our favorite flavors with our pets, too much junk food can cause your pet to refuse their healthy foods, resulting in serious nutritional deficiencies over time.
- Now is the time to reassess how many treats your pet receives daily, even if they are healthy treats—too much of a good thing can become detrimental.
- Double-check that your pet is receiving the right amount of a species and age-appropriate fortified food. Refer to the back of your pet’s food packaging for the amount of food they should receive on a daily basis.
- Move away from non-uniform mix diets: While many mixes are promoted as healthy for foraging and mental stimulation, animal nutritionists have studied mixes versus uniform diets. They’ve found that mixes allow small mammals to pick out the tasty pieces of food first while leaving behind the healthy pelleted food that is packed with vitamins and minerals. This behavior, called selective feeding, is exhibited in all small mammals, and just like feeding your pet junk food, can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies and preventable chronic health issues.
- For herbivores, hay is essential: make sure that your rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla is receiving a grass hay in unlimited amounts and that grass hay composes at least 70% of their diet.
- Talk to your vet about whether your little one might benefit from one of our hay-based supplement tabs, such as Vitamin C, Joint Support, or Urinary Support.
Here are some additional valuable resources to help ensure your pet is maintaining a healthy diet:
Help Your Pet Get Up and Moving!
Even the most well-intentioned pet parents can get busy and overwhelmed with their daily schedule, and both their own exercise and their pet’s exercise can fall by the wayside. The new year is the perfect time to change both your own and your pet’s exercise habits. Make sure to take precautions like pet-proofing areas before you allow your pet time outside of their enclosure, and kennel or contain any other pets that may harm your small pet.
Half an Hour for You, Half an Hour for Your Pet
You can combine both your pet’s exercise goal and your own goal by scheduling exercise time back-to-back. Pet-proof some space for your pet to exercise, and when their exercise is complete, place them back in their enclosure and get moving yourself. Make sure that any human exercise equipment is kept away from pets’ enclosures and exercise space, as it can be heavy and dangerous for your pet if it’s jostled or tips over.
Set a Good Example for Your Pets!
Sometimes our small companions can act like little shadows, and you can use this to get both yourself and your pet moving. Some pet parents might find that as they walk around the house, their pet will follow them. While this may require more pet-proofing, this is a great way to get light exercise in for both of you! Always be conscientious of where your pet is while you’re walking with them so they do not get underfoot on accident.
Here are some helpful links to help you and your pet get moving:
Spend Quality Time with Your Pets
Spending quality time with your pet can be one of the greatest gifts you give them. Remember that your pet might be a small part of your life, but the environment you give your pet is their entire world—our pets need us to carve some time out of our busy schedules for them.
Double-Up on Family Activities
- During movie night, while watching your favorite TV show, or playing video games, include your pet! With a fleece blanket or pad underneath them, they could sit on the couch with you while supervised, or you could set up a pet-proofed playpen with their necessities (food, water, a non-slip floor, and a hideout) in-view of the television.
- If your pet enjoys watching TV with you, they may also enjoy watching game night from a short distance away. Just make sure this shared activity is kept to games without sudden loud sounds or small game pieces that your pet may ingest. Any card game without board game pieces is a safe bet, though your pet may try to contribute to the game by chewing on a card!
- As a way to enhance your pet’s daily enrichment, interact with them during their various daily activities, such as helping them find the tastiest leaves in a pile of fresh hay, reminding them to drink water by bringing their water bottle to them (older pets that may live more sedentary lives can especially benefit from this), or creating a new favorite game together.
Here are some suggestions for simple games:
- Take an apple stick out of the apple stick bundle. Holding one end of the stick, gently drag the other end of it on the floor of your pet’s habitat. Some pets may get excited and try to take the stick from you, or they may start zooming around the perimeter of their habitat
- Roll around a lightweight ball or round toy for your pet to chase
- Crumpling up some brown grocery bag paper into a ball and crinkling it in your pet’s enclosure
- Learn about your pet’s favorite foods and toys by placing two items in front of them and seeing which they pick first
- Create a custom play wall of dangling toys of various textures and colors in their enclosure
Always monitor your pet’s happiness and comfort levels. If your pet is displaying any signs of stress, such as wide eyes, keeping their body low to the ground, making negative vocalizations, or trying to hide, discontinue the activity and switch to something you know they enjoy.
- Here are some additional resources to help enrich your pet’s life with your company:
Need help setting a resolution with your pet? Try creating a goal with these pointers in mind:
Make the goal quantifiable and specific.
If a goal is quantifiable, you can fairly assess whether or not you reach your goal, or how close you came to achieving your goal. It can also make the goal more attainable by creating a specific action step that you can work toward. While the goal “play with my pet more” is quick and easy, this goal doesn’t define how often or how long. The goal “play with my pet once a day for half an hour” is more specific and can be more easily accounted for when you are planning your time each day.
Make the goal a bit of a challenge—but reasonable.
No one wants to work toward a goal that’s impossible to achieve! If you haven’t bought any new enrichment for your pet in the past year, it may be unreasonable on yourself to set the goal of buying 100 or more enrichment items at once for your pet to try out. Instead, set the goal of trying one new enrichment item a week. This can feel far more attainable, and something you can adjust your habits and lifestyle to more easily. Not to mention, it can be a fun weekly event for both you and your pet!
Keep the importance of the goal in mind.
If you have a goal that is important to you, such as saving a little more money each month for vet visit costs, it can frankly be difficult to find the fun in goals like this. Sometimes, this can result in goals falling to the wayside shortly after setting them. Keep the importance of your resolution in mind—having money to keep your pet healthy without reliance on using credit cards or loans—and this may make adjusting to your habits easier.
Oxbow Animal Health wishes you and your little one all the best in 2023!