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New Year’s Resolutions That Include Your Pet

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A woman kisses her white and tan Jack Russell Terrier in front of a backdrop of silver streamers and balloons.

With 2024 just around the corner, many people are starting to think about choosing a New Year’s resolution. This year, instead of repeating the same old goals you always have, why not shake things up a bit? And what better way to do that than by involving your four-legged friends? We've taken seven popular resolutions and made them pet-friendly, so you and your pet can make 2024 the most fantastic year yet.

Give Back: Volunteer with Your Pet

Volunteering with your best pal is an amazing way to share the love and joy that cats and dogs bring to people, all while giving back to the community. Here are some cool volunteering opportunities you and your pet can get involved in this year:

  • Foster a pet - If you're able to, consider becoming a foster parent for a shelter animal. It's a compassionate act that not only provides companionship for your current pet but also saves the life of another cat or dog. By temporarily welcoming them into your home, you can help these shelter pets adjust and feel more comfortable around people and other animals. Reach out to your local animal shelter to learn more about fostering opportunities in your area.
  • Donate blood - Your pet can save lives by donating blood! It's a simple and quick process that doesn't require anesthesia. If your local veterinarian doesn't accept donations, you can try university veterinary hospitals or large specialty clinics with blood banks.
  • Be a reading buddy - All over the country, reading programs are pairing up struggling readers with furry listeners. These programs have found that when kids read to their nonjudgmental animal buddies, it does wonders for their confidence and reading skills.
  • Become a therapy pet - If you have a lovable pet who's always ready to spread joy and comfort, why not consider getting certified in therapy-animal training? You can bring happiness and provide therapy to nursing home and hospital patients, who would greatly benefit from the love of furry companions like dogs and cats.

Check with your local animal shelters, non-profit organizations, or even your veterinarian for additional ways to make a difference with your pet.

Be Prepared: Learn CPR and First Aid for Pets

Even the most devoted pet owners may lack proper knowledge when it comes to basic pet first aid, so this year, make it a goal to get certified in pet first aid and CPR.

A pet first-aid and CPR class will teach you the basics in emergency care for cats and dogs – from understanding and checking your pet's vital signs to caring for the most critical emergency situations, including breathing and cardiac emergencies, broken bones, bleeding, and seizures – so you can be prepared in the event of an emergency. You'll learn essential skills like how to handle a seizure, deal with an electric shock, handle injuries from car accidents, or even what to do if your furry friend ingests something they shouldn't. Plus, you'll find out what items to keep in a pet first-aid kit, and you'll even get trained on how to administer CPR if your cat or dog stops breathing.

Ask your veterinarian for recommendations, or get certified through the following programs:

Go Green: Create an Indoor Garden for Your Cat

Creating a captivating and cat-friendly indoor garden filled with herbs like catnip and plants that cater to your feline friend is a great way to provide them with an interactive and stimulating atmosphere. These indoor gardens are budget-friendly and can be built to suit any living space, allowing you to opt for a larger setup to encourage more exploration or a smaller one if you have limited space.

Here’s how:

  1. Using a wide, shallow ceramic planter, place several small rocks at the bottom to help with drainage. Fill the planter about halfway with soil, leaving space for your plants' roots to grow.
  2. Place your plants and herbs in the planter, then add more soil while gently pressing down. Make sure the soil is packed enough to give your plants the support they need.
  3. Lightly water your new garden and position it by your cat’s favorite sunny window. Then watch your feline friend explore and enjoy!
  4. Don’t forget to incorporate interactive elements like hanging toys, feathers, and tunnels within the garden area for extra entertainment that will encourage your cat to explore and play.
  5. Make sure to supervise your cat's interactions with the garden, especially in the beginning.

Always prioritize your cat’s safety. If you are not sure which herbs or plants are cat friendly and which you should avoid, it’s best to double-check with your veterinarian.

Learn Something New: Teach Your Dog Cues in a Different Language

Teaching yourself French? Why not practice your language skills while teaching your dog, too? If your dog already knows English cues, you can teach him to respond to a new language with a little bit of practice. Let’s say you want to teach your dog “down” in French:

  • Say the new cue, couche (pronounced koosh), then immediately say down. Your dog doesn’t understand couche yet, but if they know down, they should comply. As soon as they do, give them lots of praise and reward with a treat.
  • Repeat this foreign word/English word/praise sequence several times. Practice in different locations, so your dog associates lying down with the new word, not just a specific spot.
  • Once your dog is responding well, transition to the French word only. Simply say couche and wait to see if your dog responds. Then lavish them with praise and a tasty treat as a reward. If your dog isn’t yet able to respond to couche alone, pair the French and English words a few more times before trying just the French word again.

Keep practicing with your dog, following the tips outlined above. Just because your pup picked up on the new word quickly doesn’t mean they will remember it without further practice. “Use it or lose it” applies to your dog, too.

Watch What You Eat: Start Making Your Own Pet Food and Treats

This year, make it a top priority to give your cat or dog the best possible nutrition by preparing their food at home. Homemade meals and treats for your pets offer numerous advantages, not just for their health, but also for you and the environment. By taking control of their diet, you’re ensuring their safety and well-being by avoiding any potentially harmful ingredients that may be present in commercial pet food.

In addition to numerous benefits, creating homemade pet food allows you to select ingredients that perfectly cater to your pet's nutritional needs, but make sure you discuss any dietary changes with your veterinarian first. With full control over every ingredient that goes in, you’re able to guarantee the quality of your cat or dog’s food and give them a happier, healthier year.

Get Outside: Go Geocaching with Your Dog

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting activity where players use GPS and their smarts to find hidden containers called "caches." These caches are cleverly hidden by other players in outdoor locations like parks, trails, rivers, and beaches. Once you find the cache, you are asked to place an item or two in the container and trade it for one that was placed by a previous geocacher. Many dog-friendly caches have dog toys or treats, so be sure to bring something fun to swap!

Geocaching with your dog is more than just a walk in the park - it's an exciting adventure to uncover hidden treasures. Not only does it keep you physically active, but it also engages your mind for an extended period of time while allowing your dog to explore unique smells, sights, and sounds that they wouldn't typically encounter during a regular neighborhood stroll or when spending time in the backyard.

Tips for geocaching with your dog

Do your research beforehand

It is important to check the area you are going to on the geocaching app to ensure that dogs are allowed. For all locations that welcome dogs, you will see a “dogs allowed” attribute icon.

Be prepared

Just like any hike or walk with your dog, you will need to take doggie bags, a leash, water, and some snacks if it’s a long trek. It’s also smart to make sure your dog has an updated identification tag.

Utilize their nose

Dogs are naturally curious with an incredible sense of smell. Have them help sniff out the geocache! Some geocaches aren’t hidden in obvious places. Watch your dog closely to see if they’ve discovered the geocache!

Improve Finances: Invest in Pet Insurance

If your financial health is top of mind in 2024, it might be worth considering pet insurance. It can be a good way to help offset the potential major cost of getting veterinary care, like treatment for cancer or a broken bone, which can cost thousands of dollars. With pet insurance, you can get reimbursed for eligible veterinary expenses, saving you from having to pay out of pocket and allowing you to get the care your pet requires without worrying about the cost. And that’s the main point of pet insurance: To have financial protection against major veterinary bills and peace of mind that your pet is protected.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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