At the end of the calendar year, many people ring in the new year by creating a list of habits they'd like to start (or stop) doing to benefit their health and happiness. Why not include your pet in your New Year's resolutions, too?
Making pet resolutions is a great way to help you stick to your own list of do's and don'ts because who better than your dog to make sure you get out of bed for that early morning walk–or your cat to make sure you take that energizing afternoon nap?
Here are some ways you and your pet can have a happy, healthy twelve months–and beyond!
Vowing to exercise tops many resolution lists, and it should for pets, too. As PetMD points out, walking your dog (or cat) benefits your fur baby in many ways, such as aiding the digestive system and promoting agility. You're more likely to stick to an exercise regimen if you have a buddy. If jogging isn't your speed, leisurely walks are just as good. Stick to the pace that works best for you and your little guy or gal. Try out a new park, hiking trail, or city street. If your furry friend is indoors, get moving by chasing toys around the house or playing games, like fetch or hide-and-seek. Create fun DIY cat toys to engage your cat and help improve her motor skills.
Making healthier food choices is another popular resolution, and, oftentimes, falls off the list most easily. It's no secret that eating well is good for you, but don't forget about your new year's pet and his nutrition. Avoid giving your cat or dog table scraps. A little goes a long way. What may be a small snack for you could add up to an entire meal for your pet.
Before revamping your pet's food, consult with your veterinarian because different animals have different needs. Pets are creatures of habit, just like their pet parents, and switching your cat's or dog's food for a new kind may not always go smoothly. Be patient, just as you would with your own eating habits.
The act of petting your dog or cat lowers your stress level and blood pressure, but did you know that sometimes, just gazing at an animal can alleviate stress? "You don't even need to touch them. Just looking is enough," says Vetstreet. "Watching fish in an aquarium has the same effect." If you've ever felt a rush of love watching your cat curled up in her favorite spot, you know how powerful simply being around pets can be.
You also can incorporate mindfulness into your daily pet care routine. The next time your dog stops to smell the roses, instead of hurrying him along, take a deep breath, perform a sun salutation, and soak in a quiet moment of peace.
Meet New People (and Animals)
If you and your pup or kitty tend to be homebodies, add "make new friends" to your pet resolutions! Pets are a great way to expand your social network because you instantly have a bond with fellow animal lovers.
Need a boost to get out of the house? Start walking. As noted above, walking has many health benefits for you and your pet, but it's also great for your social lives. An animal is a great conversation starter, even if you're just going down to the corner store for a coffee. You can also check with your local animal shelter to see if it hosts any fundraisers, such as dog walking events. You'll meet new people, your dog will love the opportunity to socialize, and you'll help support a worthy charity.
Learn Something New
The new year is a great time to commit yourself to learning something new; add your dog or cat to that resolution too. While you're committing time and effort to learning a new skill you can take time to help your pet learn a new trick or command. If you decide to take a class like photography, think about also signing up for a training course for your pet. Even if you have an older pet, it doesn't mean they can't learn new tricks. By making a commitment to help your pet learn something new, it will also help keep you motivated to stick with your new education.
New Year's resolutions are always easier to keep when you have a support system to keep you motivated. No one ever said that it had to be another human. Including your dog or cat into your resolutions is a great way to help keep your eye on the prize to help benefit both of you. Good luck with all of your New Year's resolutions this year, and every year to come.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, former English professor, and long-time pet parent whose two Russian Blue cats rule the house. Her work also appears in Fit Pregnancy, What to Expect Word of Mom, and Care.com, where she writes about pets and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien