How to take care of a pet

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Take care of a pet with this primer of what you need for your dog or cat

Caring for an animal is a huge responsibility, paid for with early morning nuzzling, soft purrs and late night crazy hours. As independent as some like to think they are, animals that live with you are dependent on you for medical care, food and a safe place to sleep. Knowing how to take care of a pet is essential if youíre thinking of bringing one into your life.

Pet care 101


Food, toys, a brush and nail clippers are among the basic pet supplies you'll want on hand. Though cats conveniently bathe themselves, both cats and dogs need to be brushed. Matted hair can lead to skin irritations or infections. It also pulls at the skin, becoming extremely uncomfortable or painful.

In addition to brushing, dogs require frequent baths to keep their hair and skin clean. A vet will advise on how often to bath them and the best products to use based on the breed. While purchasing dog shampoo may seem like an unnecessary expense, human shampoos are typically too harsh and can irritate their skin.

Nail care for animals isnít nearly as glamorous as it is for people, but itís a critical part to take care of a pet, at least a furry, four-legged one. Youíll need special pet nail clippers and always clip the very tips just above the pink part so they donít bleed. Expect to clip every 2 weeks or so.


If you notice a slight change in your catís behavior, or the dog seems a bit off, consider taking them to see the vet if it lasts for more than two days. Pets WebMD offers a list of common signs she may be ill. Once diagnosed, follow the vetís instructions with medications and try to create a quiet environment at home so she can recuperate.

When you first buy or adopt an animal, have a vet administer essential vaccinations to protect them from common diseases like Rabies and Hepatitis. Depending on where you live and the animalís present health, additional vaccines may be suggested as well.


You donít have to be a vet to understand why animals need exercise. Like people, they need to run and play to keep their organs healthy. For cats, playtime is as much about mental stimulation as it is about physical health, according to 

Challenge their hunting skills by attaching a feather and shiny bell to the end of a string. Fast, jerky movements mimic those of their prey. Allow them to catch the end every now and then so the game is fun for them, too. About ten minutes of this sort of play will keep a kitty happy. 

Dogs love to walk and run outside. It gives them a chance to socialize with other pups and explore the world around them. Make an effort to walk them about a mile a day and youíll both stay strong and alert.

Extreme weather

Extreme temperatures expose animals to a number of potential dangers. In summer, you may need to refill their water bowls more often than usual to prevent dehydration and look out for ticks. In winter, keep cats indoors to protect them from frostbite and ingesting poisonous chemicals used to treat cars and roads. Wipe the dogís paws after their walk to remove abrasive salts and chemicals.

ID tags

In a worst case scenario, an ID tag is the best tool to ensure a lost pet wonít stay lost. Every time your animal leaves the house, and especially when traveling, he should wear a basic tag with the ownerís address, name and phone number. The American Humane Association suggests all owners have their animals microchipped for their own security.

In addition to giving your new friend a place to sleep Ė be it a bird cage, fish tank or your pillow Ė a food on a regular schedule, heíll also need love and affection. Pet them, hug them and give them a treat when they do a good  training. In exchange for knowing how to take care of a pet, their trust and unconditional love are yours.

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