The British are known as a people who love their pets, treating them as one of the family and sometimes even better than that! We allow our cats and dogs to share our beds; some people even dress their pets up as bridesmaids for their weddings. Pampered pooches and moggies suggest that we do cherish our pets. However, every so often a story of supreme cruelty appears in the media that seems to throw that label out of the window. So, are we still a nation of animal lovers, or not?
Until recently, the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) ran a week dedicated to raising awareness of animal issues. It did not just cover cases of animal cruelty, but also explained how to care for your pets properly. They published posters on ensuring that fish tanks are kept clean, the importance of booster jabs for your pets, and reinforcing the difficulties of exotic pets. It’s important that we think long and hard about the commitment when investing in a pet. There is a disproportionate number of exotic pets handed over to animal charities every year. They become too difficult and complex to handle and there is a critical need to stem the flow of unwanted pets into the system.
Yet this happens every year, especially after Christmas. Pets are released into the wild or handed over to the RSPCA. The RSPCA used the week to highlight some of the common problems associated with pet care. Although there is no event this year, it doesn’t mean that the problem has gone away.
How to Properly Care For Pets
Most animals have different needs. The key is getting that balance right between fulfilling all of the needs of type of pet.
- Remember that some types of pet have emotional needs (cats and dogs). They need physical affection and closeness, especially dogs, as they are social animals requiring companionship. A pet snake will certainly not demand cuddles!
- When it comes to food, pet care is not just about ensuring they have enough to eat. It also means ensuring they have enough of the right foods and are not overfed. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. Cats are obligate carnivores so cannot eat vegetarian or vegan food. Dogs can eat vegetarian food, but they do need the right nutritional balance
- Animals also need the right environment. We consider it cruel to keep a dog in a cage, but it’s perfectly fine to put rabbits in a cage of the same size – for their safety and their comfort
- Environment is also about temperature and cleanliness. Different types of fish, for example, have varying needs. Cold water might kill some types whereas a tropical environment is not ideal for temperate fish
- Their safety is your responsibility. Animals kept outside in cages (such as rabbits) need a secure environment to protect them from birds of prey, cats and foxes
There is much hand-wringing over this question. For every story of a man risking his life to save his dog during a flood, there are stories of neglect and cruelty that makes us question human decency. Yet these stories receive a lot of attention because they are rare. However, the RSPCA reports that somebody calls them about an animal in distress every 30 seconds. Last year, they received around 1.2m phone calls. It’s a sobering enough statistic, but the majority of these cases are not of deliberate and malicious animal cruelty. Some of these calls are for people who need help in pet care and simply can’t cope.
120,000 animals are recovered every year. That’s just 10% of the number of phone calls. When we compare that to the number of animals nationwide – 8.5m dogs and 7.4m cats, it seems a mere drop in the ocean.