Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Top 10 Mistakes New Pet Parents Make

If only we could learn from the mistakes of others...? How many of us would avoid painful life halting mistakes? There isn't a single one of us that hasn't sat shotgun watching a beloved family member, friend, or even marginal acquaintance make some tragic mistake that changes the trajectory of their lives indelibly for decades to follow.

Some of those mistakes even end up being fatal...
  • The text that had to be answered on the interstate while behind the wheel.
  • The late night celebratory ride home after a few too many that didn't include a taxi or Uber. 
  • The poorly socialized large breed dog who landed in the wrong house, with the wrong owner after being purchased on impulse because the photo online made them feel more "manly" about themselves, bites out of fear or anxiety,, and ends up getting a one way trip to the shelter.. This happens at least once a year at the clinic.
  • The cat who gets sentenced to solitary confinement because her pleas for help and/or peeing outside the box (which is after all always a plea for help) cause disdain to the already overburdened over stressed family who is hard pressed to find time to do anything other than add food to the bowl once a week. This happens weekly,, these poor misunderstood neglected cats! (Please, please call me,, or go to Pawbly.com, we can help)
The list is long, varied, and painful for every family member involved... but every single one could have?, might have? should have been able to be avoided.. with a little advice from your friends or the experts who want so desperately to never see another tragic mistake repeated.

For those of us in the exam room of the veterinary clinic for 8 hours of every day you learn that people are destined to repeat others mistakes. Perhaps it is the balance to keep nature from over populating? Some sick form of Darwin's Law maintaining a balance? It is still, however, frustrating to the point of feeling like you are caught in Groundhog Day meets Edge Of Tomorrow. It is a sickening cyclic chasm of repetition that causes you to either sit down and compile them into a list for the near futile desperate hope that someone will take pause, OR, you become blind, deaf, mute and indifferent. (God give me the strength to not become indifferent).

Madelaine,, one of my dearest friends
Here is my list of the Top Ten Mistakes That I See New Pet Parents Making,,, over and over again;

1. Not being prepared for your life to change. Your life is going to change. You have another life dependent on your ability to provide love, support, encouragement, training, and happiness. Adopting a pet requires time, patience, love, sharing of the care they need to thrive and financial resources. Your life is going to change for the better!! Be the parent your pet needs you to be.

Amanda, River and Rosie
2. Not understanding this is a living being who will need you, your wallet, and will have stumbles along the way. I am eternally perplexed by clients who happily spend many hundreds of dollars on that cute face in a window or internet ad then fly half a country away to pick up their 8 week old baby, and then tell me they don't have enough money left for preventatives, microchip, or spay/neuter? The adoption fee is often the cheapest part.

Not a quick or cheap fix here,, 

3. Not making a designated pet place and allocating enough time. Pets, especially puppies, need lots and lots of time. They need time before you leave for work, (I suggest at least an hour), time after you get home from work (I suggest at least two hours), and they need to get out of the house for training, socializing and general sticking their nose, face, feet and whole body in the dirt/grass (at least 6 hours on the weekends). They need to be a dog. Your cat needs emotional and intellectual stimuli outside of a couch and litter box. They need play, long naps on laps with constant petting, catnip toys, etc. AND both need a proportional allocation of your home to the amount of time they spend in it. For example; if you live in a 1,000 sq ft home with your dog/cat they should get at least 100 sq ft of dedicated space for what they want and need. For my home with two dogs and four felines this includes their own litter boxes in their own spaces. They each have their own room/area and their own stuff there (litter box, food, water, bed). Some like raised beds in windows, others like the bed in the flower boxes, and Jitterbug prefers the giant dog bed they are now unable to even get near. She has claimed it and the cats rule this roost (it is always safer for the cats to be in charge. The dogs are not allowed to challenge them). To all of the clients who tell me that they "don't want their cat on the tables or counter top, etc." I remind them that their cat is a little fierce predator under that purr. They want to be where we are. They want to perch from a vantage point and you NEVER, EVER, reprimand or discipline a cat. You can try to silently discourage by covering the area with things like tin foil or hard plastic (but, cats will pee on plastic, remember what the litter box is made of?), so you need to pick your battle carefully and provide a compromise. If you don't want them on the table/counter top you need to add cat shelves to these rooms. That's a compromise. Not banishing them to the areas you aren't in,, like a spare bedroom or scary gross basement.

Wren at the cat food bar
The long walk from food to heated bed

Arrival; heated bed

Magpie the sentinel

Coot gets the best seat in the house
4. Not knowing how to love on their terms. Having a companion is NOT ABOUT YOU! Don't get a pet to accessorize or complete your life. Too many "cute" pets are dressed, shoved into bags, smuggled as therapy pets to vacations far away, or asked to ride in a side car on a speeding motor cycle on the highway. They have their own needs and you have to understand, support and provide for this. Cats need to feel the world. They are compelled to give it a graffiti tag of ownership, and they need to be active. Most people don't get a cat and expect for them to be active.. Dogs need stuff that stinks of life.. dirt, sand, sticks, and to be the wolf of their forefathers,,, at least in their minds eye. That's loving a pet. Giving them (safely of course!) what they want and need, even if you don't want a dirty dog, a shredded chair and a life surrounded by organic materials.

Jitterbug gets what he wants,, Jekyll has to put up with him

5. Not being educated on your pets breed, needs, and behaviors. If you want to buy a car, shoes, house, or even vegetables based on how they look in the package that's fine. Don't buy, adopt, or steal a pet based on the way they "look". A German Shepherd, Border Collie, Cane Corso or Rottweiler (the list includes every single breed) can be a deadly weapon in the hands of the wrong (often well-intentioned) people. "Cute" and "designer" are not in your pets best interests. A brachycephalic dog or cat that can't breathe or maintain a healthy skin due to excessive folds, or is blind because we wanted a "cool, unique" color coat is not compatible with ideal health status IS irresponsible and a poor excuse to build your own self-esteem.
6. Not seeing life from their vantage point or standing in their paws. Your cat is probably bored to tears (and perhaps subsequently peeing in inappropriate places) almost all of the time. Can you imagine sitting under the same roof day after day? The same food, the same expectations,, ugh.. bleck! spice up life. Add catnip, cat scratching mats, or start walking (have I expressed how much I love harness walking cats?). Your dog barks at strangers walking by because they live in their home and their job is to alert the family. (Never yell at them for doing their job). That's all they have; this little home to protect and serve. They dig, shred, play and get into stuff because they have excess energy (those dogs eating toys needing emergency foreign body surgery chew, and swallow, because they are bored) OR, you forgot to let others into their lives and now they cannot function without you. There is a happy medium between too much love and attention AND too much dependency on each other (separation anxiety starts here).
River keeps her eye on the treat

7. Not sharing the joy of being a parent. How do people who have never had a pet before learn about the joys of being a pet parent? Through friends and family. Share the joy that your pet brings. Where do I see the biggest obstacles? Men who are in relationships with cat women. (OK, I know not PC, but, you get honesty with this blog!) The number of relationships that come with "get rid of the cat" ultimatums is staggering. If your boyfriend makes you chose your family over them just dump them. Immediately. They aren't worth the sacrifice.. and what are you going to do if the list gets longer? What about when they dump you because their other girlfriend gave them an ultimatum to get rid of you? (Footnote; the only person who doesn't like a cat is the one who doesn't know AND understand a cat).

Happy snow day!

8. Not socializing early enough and thoroughly enough. Every puppy should be touched by at least a hundred people BEFORE 8 weeks of age. I have abandoned the old ideology that we don't encourage social interaction until your pet is fully vaccinated... we exchanged a protected pet for a happy well-balanced pet. Get out there and play with the world. (Please have your pet micro chipped at 8 weeks! and scrutinize the people you play with. No sick pets, no day care, and no dropping off at hospitals, shelters or rescues. Keep them in safe, clean, disease free places).

9. Not raising an independent responsible member of society. Those selfish paranoid doomsdayers who keep vicious guard dogs trained to display aggression, with beatings and harsh words have bred dogs who will be shot the moment they get loose, injure a human, or the junk yard closes. This might be an extreme example, but about 50% of the docile friendly 8 week old puppies that I see a year later have become cowering, fearful anxiety ridden beings. Now I realize that they haven't seen me in a while, (which I would love to change with more frequent "happy visits" just to get a treat and a snuggle), but it is much more difficult to retrain a fearful dog than to always keep them in your inside AND outside of the home life happily sharing all aspects of it. Take your pets everywhere you can (safely, NO LEAVING THEM IN CARS!). Your pet needs to exist within the confines of society. They have to be stable, confident and able to deal with life outside and away from you. That is your job; to raise a being able to move on and thrive without you. People die, things change, your pets life should never depend on these. They need constant exposure to help them understand the society we live in. Should you not be here to take care of them and they end up in a shelter the pets who love people are far more likely to get a second chance adoption. I love my pets more than almost anything in life. They have a back up plan for the time I can no longer care for them. I have a small army of people to take over (with written instructions ;-) about what they need and like). They will go on after I can no longer do so. They are a part of my life and legacy. To provide them the best chance of flourishing without me I have to expose them to life, other people and they need to know what love is so that they can provide it to their next family without fear, apprehension or contempt. Pets are far better at moving on than we give them credit for.

Rescue life
This idea of euthanizing them so that they can spend eternity with you is selfish. I have seen dozens of pets go on to new homes they love and are happy in. It happens all the time. I have never seen one be sad, upset or even unable to adapt to a new life. My family can go on without me.. I want them to with all of the life skills a good parent prepares us for.

Molly and her second chance

10 Not knowing who to get advice from and not getting help early enough. Feeding, vaccinating, and taking advice from the kid at the gourmet pet store, the tv commercials, the Facebook ads, the breeder, or the flyer from the feed store, all has enormous potential to be bad advice from a biased, partially knowledgeable person AND it can do more harm than good. All pet questions start at the vets office (OK I am biased), but, I get crazed by the gourmet dog food store owner giving medical advice for diet, ears, skin, and behavior.. etc, etc.. If they could be sued for practicing medicine without a license I would encourage my clients to do so.. Or at least submit their medical bills for reimbursement. A problem that sits, simmers, or grows and worsens is always harder to manage after months of bad and/or inappropriate advice. If your pet needs help you can find me, and a whole bunch of very credible pet experts for free at Pawbly.com. (Be prepared to be given advice about seeing your vet. They are your pets best advocate and adviser!).

Mack, minus the two foot long string toy I removed a few hours earlier.
As always JVC, and I, are here to help you and your pet. If you would like to meet the amazing staff and hear more about the ways that we can help you and your pet live longer happier and healthier lives we would be happy to show you how the face of veterinary medicine and the care we provide can ext end past the traditional options of hope and luck. Please also follow our amazing Facebook page JarrettsvilleVet. Or find our 2017 Jarrettsville Vet Price List here.

If you would like to learn more about pet care or ask a free pet related question please visit Pawbly.com. It is free to use and open to all of those who love pets.

If you want to help others and you have experience with pet care please join us on Pawbly.com. Pet care is about helping others and we are built on this alone. I also have educational videos on YouTube, or @FreePetAdvice.

And, of course, we hope that you will Please Always Be Kind.


  1. Wow, these pictures are beautiful. I think you are doing a good job educating the people about basics of pet care. Plenty of people don't bother to do their research and homework before they take up the mantle of caring for a pet full-time.

    My pet was a good Russian cat who I unfortunately had to give up becasue I found out it was a bit too much. I would have known had I done some research. Anyway, we are both in good hands now.

    1. Thank you!!
      My best to you. Thanks for visiting.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this, it helped me a lot.