Pet Cover Direct

Looking after your pet

Once you have decided on what type of animal you want as a pet, you will need to get into a routine of how you are going to care for them.

There will be routines for grooming, feeding and exercise. If you are consistent with your routines you will find that your pet will very quickly get used to the ideas.

If your choice of pet is a dog, they will need taking out for a walk. Depending on the type of dog and their exercise requirements this might be one, twice or three times a day. Many owners who have a 'two walks a day' routine will walk the dog morning and evening. Walking a dog is not just about exercise to burn off calories they consume. Taking in different sights and smells, including the scents left by other animals, is a social experience for a dog that stimulates their brain and enhances their happiness and wellbeing. It is legally, and morally, important that you clean up after your dog on walks - even if you are walking in a grassy area. Always ensure you have a plentiful supply of bags to pick up after your dog.

If you have a cat is it a good idea to get a cat flap. This will allow them to go in and out as they please, and means you won’t have to worry about opening the door for them. Some cats are kept as house cats. These cats do not go out at all - often if their owners live by busy main road. House cats use a litter tray instead of doing their business outside. If they've never been outside from being tiny kittens, there is no evidence that cats suffer from being house cats.

Below is some more information to help you look after your pet.

Pet insurance comparisonCompare pet insurance

Feeding your pet

Just like humans, cats and dogs both need a healthy, well-balanced diet combined with regular exercise. If you overfeed your pet they are likely to gain weight and this will then make them more prone to illnesses.

Cats tend to enjoy a high protein and high fat diet – this includes a lot of meat. Cats also like fish, though when you do give them fish please ensure that it is free of bones and cooked thoroughly. Cat food comes in a variety of styles: cans, pouches or foil trays. It doesn’t matter which you choose for your cat, you just need to make sure they are getting the right amount of vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, minerals and fats. Cats are carnivores by nature and a vegetarian diet wouldn’t be right for them. It’s widely assumed that milk is the drink a cat should be given, however this isn’t true as it tends to lead to illnesses. You should instead provide clean, fresh water for your cat to drink.

Dogs also need the right amount of protein, fats, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates in their diet. When feeding your dog you have a number of different choices, from dry food to tins, from homemade food to semi moist food. Be aware of the types of food that are bad for dogs including chocolate, salt and onions.

You will also need to get your dog or cat into a routine of regular vet checkups and annual vaccinations. Dogs and cats are both likely to pick up worms and fleas, so it is important to have a routine to check for these and provide regular preventative worming and flea treatments. These sort of treatments are not routinely covered by pet insurance - which is more aimed at covering the costs of non-routine treatment for illnesses and injuries. 

Cats and dogs should also be spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted pregnancies. There is also some evidence that spaying and neutering can minimise any aggressive or domineering behaviour.

Neutering your pet

Neutering a female cat or dog means the removal of her womb and ovaries. This will mean she won’t be able to have any kittens or puppies. It also removes the risks of some cancers that can begin in the reproductive organs.

For male pets, the equivalent operation is the removal of the testicles. This will prevent any dominant behaviour from a dog, while for cats it means there is less of a chance of them straying or fighting. It also prevents unwanted puppies and kittens, of course.

It is advisable to get your pet neutered when they are young. Some people worry that neutering their pets will cause them to get fat - this isn’t true. If your pet has a balanced diet and plenty of exercise they will not get overweight.

Identification

It’s a good idea to get you dog or cat microchipped. This will mean that if they get lost or stolen they can be identified as your pet and returned to you. The microchip is placed in the back of your pet’s neck under their skin - a painless procedure. This microchip has an individual number on it. Your contact details are associated with this ID number on a central register. If you move house or change your telephone number it is important that you keep your details updated on the central register. This is extremely safe and probably one of the best ways of identification for your animal. If you get your pet from a charity like the RSPCA this will sometimes be done before you take your new pet home.

It is also a legal requirement that your dog has a tag on its collar. The 1981 Animal Health Act made it illegal to have your dog in a public place without a identification tag and collar. 

Whether you have your pet microchipped or not, they must still have a collar and tag. Talks are underway in the UK at present about making microchipping mandatory.

Training and disciplining your dog

If you take on a puppy then it will be your sole responsibility to train them. You will also need to make sure that you take time to play with them and socialise them so that they behave well with other humans and animals. It is important to start training your puppy as early as possible so that they learn to understand your commands. You need to establish yourself, gently but firmly, as the ‘pack leader’. Failure to do so could result in a disobedient dog that is hard to control.

There are many recognised training courses around the country where you and your puppy can learn together about training and discipline. Search online, or ask your vet for a recommendation. Puppy training classes are also a good way of getting your young pet used to mixing with dogs of all types and sizes.

Training and disciplining your Cat

Cats need a lot less training than dogs as they are much more independent. However they do have a tendency to scratch furniture, bring back prey with them and climb on surfaces. If you buy a scratch post for your cat, he or she is more likely to use this rather than your furniture.

Training a cat to use a litter tray is relatively easily as cats are instinctively clean animals and they like returning to the same place to toilet. You want this to be your litter tray rather than a corner of one of your rooms. Be sure to keep young children away from dirty cat litter as they can contract serious illnesses.

Cats that roam outdoors should also wear a collar with a tag on it carrying your name, address and phone number so that they can be returned if they stray.

Pet insurance comparisonCompare pet insurance