By Shambhavi Saxena:
There is something particularly rewarding about being the object of an animal’s affection. It’s sort of like a paw-shaped mark of approval – as if saying “this human is kind, this human is compassionate.” It’s something many pet owners, or human companions (as we like to think of ourselves), prize over even the affections of fellow people. I think I can speak for everybody who’s had a pet they’re very attached to when I say that the day you bring a pet home is one of those momentous, life-changing, personality shaping events you always look back to with gratitude – even if you’ve had your heart broken by the passing of a beloved pet. The bond between our pets and us is at once both simple and complicated. Give a stray dog a bowl of food and he will love and guard you fiercely with his whole being. Give a human your whole doggy (or kitty) heart, are they as likely to return it in equal measure? I’m not so sure.
Here is a list of the various ways in which we do a grave disservice to the pets who, despite everything, think the world of us:
1. Buying Our Pets
The acquisition of a pet to many is only that – an acquisition. Rather than recognizing a pet as a living, breathing, needing individual, it becomes a toy, an attraction or a status symbol. That people buy pets from shops says enough about their commodification. Even the choice of breed bought can say a lot about the pet owner, when a just-as-deserving pup at a shelter could have been adopted out of the clutches of ‘compassionate euthanasia’. Maternal deprivation, killing off ‘unsellable specimens’ and forced insemination are just some of the things you condone when buying from breeders.
2. Playthings We Outgrow
Often the initial joy of welcoming a pet into our home diminishes into a routine of negligence. Our classrooms, jobs, dinners and dates often take precedence over our pets who want nothing more than to spend time with them. As a result, many a pet is left home alone for long hours without any interaction or stimulation.
3. Irresponsible Parenting
Even worse is the disdain and anger we sometimes show to very young dogs or cats for biting, scratching or weeing all over the place, because we just don’t put in enough hours training them. It takes time for young’uns to learn, remember you didn’t waltz into pre-school spouting Euclidean geometry, now did you?
4. Not Cute Anymore
In addition to turning out dogs and cats that ‘misbehave’, pet owners have been known to disown their furry family members because they outgrew their babyhood appeal. But then again, they didn’t really consider them family in the first place.
5. Improper Grooming
Every breed of dog and cat has its own grooming requirements. It is particularly infuriating to see long-haired breeds being paraded around in the blistering summer heat of India because the owners just don’t know or don’t care to have them shaved. There is a range of vet products and supplies that can help with grooming, you just need to know they exist. In any case, even if you are one of the lucky few who can afford to run three air-conditioners in your home all summer long, I implore you to think twice before subjecting your Siberian Huskies and St Bernard (breeds from regions that enjoy subzero temperatures) to this heat. The same goes for cat breeds from cold places.
6. Bad Diets
Onions. Garlic. Chocolate. Avocados. A lot of the things you relish at the dining table are toxic to your pet if you indulge them with scraps. Regardless of whether you’ve been feeding these to your pet for ages or if you’ve just begun to research about your pet’s food, take a look at this list of foods that are a big no-no.
7. Delegating Responsibility
Taking care of a pet is not like your management courses. You have to be hands-on and one hundred percent involved. Getting in your pets business – no matter how much they grumble about you picking through the fur – is the name of the game. People who leave their pets unattended or in the care of house help are not going to pick up on signs of medical distress, mood disorders and other discomfort
8. Prohibiting Movement
Depending on their breed, a pet needs anything between thirty minutes to two hours of physical exercise each day, and it is important to ensure that they get it. While we may obsess about hitting the gym after work, few of us are concerned for our pets’ exercise as well. Once again, ignorance or just plain unwillingness has caused dogs to be tied up in a corner or cats boxed into cages. Apart from exercise, the practice of prohibiting our pets movement – pretending like the balcony is a dog house etc. – is actually a crime in India. The third chapter of the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals Act highlights the inability to ensure adequate room for movement constitutes a criminal charge. Need I even say anything about caged birds (who have their wings clipped at the pet shop)?
The above is not an exhaustive list of the things we need to change in order to give our pets a comfortable and loving life, short lives that they have, but it would certainly make a world of difference to our pets.