Each year during the month of May, pet owners all over the world observe Responsible Animal Guardian Month. Established by the In Defense of Animals (IDA) organization, Responsible Animal Guardian Month has its roots in an 1822 law called Martin’s Act enacted in the United Kingdom for the purpose of protecting horses and cattle from neglect and cruelty. Martin’s Act was later amended to include cats, dogs, and other pets from neglect and cruelty.
The main reason for promoting Responsible Animal Guardian Month is to remind pet owners of the five needs owners should always provide to keep animals safe, healthy, and happy: behavior, diet, companionship, environment, and health.
Obligate carnivores are animals that must eat meat to prevent nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition. Wild and domestic cats are obligate carnivores that lack digestive system enzymes necessary to break down plant carbohydrates. This is why cats will usually vomit after eating grass. Dogs, on the other hand, used to be strict obligate carnivores, but since their domestication thousands of years ago, the canine digestive system has evolved to extract some nutrients from plant-based food. However, a dog’s diet should consist mostly of meat to avoid protein deficiency in dogs.
Cat food should contain the following nutrients:
- 11 amino acids
- 30% crude protein
- Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
- Vitamins A, K, D, E, and B12
- Multiple minerals
Clean water bowls at least twice a day and refill with fresh, cool water to encourage drinking in cats.
General Health and Well-being
Cat care also involves taking your cat to the vet once a year for a complete check-up and vaccinations, when applicable. During a routine visit, veterinarians will weigh the cat, inspect their eyes, nose, and ears for signs of infections, palpate their body to detect suspicious lumps, and check the cat’s vitals. In addition to making annual vet appointments, owners can have a cat first aid kit ready to use in case Kitty encounters hostile intruders roaming their territory. Cat first aid kits can include a bottle of saline wash to irrigate wounds, cotton balls, cotton swabs, gauze rolls, and bandage tape.
Responsible Animal Guardian Month is a good time for pet owners to take inventory of their pet’s environment. While dogs need toys, chew toys, a large yard in which to exercise, and a comfy bed, cats require a few more things to optimize their surroundings. After all, they are cats!
- Scratching post that accommodates a cat’s “stretching” length
- Toys (jingle balls, catnip-filled toys, etc)
- Large litter box (the bigger, the better)
- A cat tree/cat condo with multiple perches and hideaways
- Window perch preferable with a view of a birdbath or tree
- Cat carrier for trips to the vet
- A human lap that is available on demand
The biggest behavior need of cats and dogs involves their hormones. Spaying or neutering your pet not only prevents pregnancy but also offers the following benefits:
- Helps increase the longevity of both male and female pets
- Reduces the risk of diseases associated with estrogen and testosterone levels (cancer, uterine infections, prostate issues, obesity, etc)
- Makes male dogs less likely to mount people, roam or leave the yard
- Stops the yowling and random urinating of unspayed cats in heat
- Significantly minimizes urine odor. Pets that are unspayed or unneutered have strong-smelling urine because of the testosterone and estrogen in their bodies.
All domesticated animals can become lonely, anxious, and depressed if they do receive consistent love and attention from their humans. In addition, the myth that cats can be left alone for several days with just food and water is callous and wrong. When cats do not get enough affection, they may meow excessively, paw at your leg or arm, knock stuff over, scratch on places other than their scratching post, and refuse to use the litterbox.
Cat owners who plan to take a vacation or be away from home for several days should find a reliable cat sitter who is experienced and trained in the art of cat sitting. A pet sitter can provide all your cat’s needs as specified by Animal Guardian Month: health, environment, companionship, diet, and behavior.
May is Also Chip Your Pet Month
We also want to remind you to get your pet chipped in May. Microchipping your dog or cat is the best way to avoid losing your pet and the best way to find your pet. When a pet is microchipped, local animal shelters can scan the chip and immediately access the animal’s unique identification number. This number is registered in a national animal recovery database and corresponds with the contact information you gave the vet when your pet was microchipped.