Get active with your pet(s)
Pets provide lots of ways to get active from head to toe and this page touches on a few of them. And they neededn't cost a lot. Not all these examples below will apply to every animal, but many will.
Stroking your pet will reduce your blood pressure and enhance the bond between you. Give up that alcoholic drink after work to soothe the stresses of the day away - come home and stroke your pet instead. Your pet will have his or her own preference when it comes to stroking - you can cuddle some cats, where as others will hate it.
Care for an animal who is being trained
Lots of animal charities who train animals for a purpose e.g. for roles as assistance dogs - need kind, loving people to care for these animals over the weekends, or while their trainers are on holiday, or from five in the evening (ish) through to nine the next morning. Canine Partners is one example. They may also need homes for dogs who have retired from service. You may stick to some rules which could appear strange at first, e.g. how the dog is toileted etc - consistency is essential so as not to cause confusion.
Get your brain working
Learning about ways to care for your pet, pet psychology and behaviour, all gets your brain working. You can buy books cheaply off Amazon or Borders, ask for them as Christmas presents, buy on-line courses or borrow from your local library.
Many cats and dogs love to be brushed and some need very regular brushing - especially those with longer fur or elder pets who may have trouble reaching for bits they could originally get to with ease. Such activity also helps you notice any changes in your pet's condition and coat, any lumps and bumps which have appeared and need veterinary attention. You don't need fancy grooming tools, either. Some animals can be a bit funny about being groomed around their heads and tummies, but give it time. If you don't know how to groom your pet, seek advice or find out from a book on caring for him or her.
Play games together
These don't need to be expensive, either. Your cat will love a piece of string pulled along the floor (Trouble particularly loved it when it disappeared under newspaper on the floor); and why not play frisbee with your dog in the local park? Games like these can be a great way to boost your pet's activity levels and ability to reach for things, to stretch. If you're visiting animals who need to build confidence, games can be a way to help them overcome their nerves - their curiosity will get the better of them.
"Exercise is good for you, laziness is not!"
So sang the Wombles of Wimbledon, and it's as true for our pets as it is for us. Some animals need more exercise than others but if you don't take care of yourself and exercise properly, the chances are your pet will suffer too. Dogs need walkies daily, some - German Shepherds, collies - more than others (greyounds). It's not fair on a dog or your neighbours to get a dog who needs a lot of work, only then not to get it. Cats also need stimulation, exercise and fun things to play with - they have a natural curiosity, as indeed most animals do.
There's many a friend going through a tough time - such as recovering from surgery or coping with cancer - or life changes - becoming a parent for the first time or dealing with elderly relatives - who would welcome a helping hand. Your help could mean the very difference between them being able to keep their much loved pet or having to give them up.
Photograph and/or draw your pet.
Build up an album of photos to remind you of happy times you've spent together. Draw your pet, too - it's great fun trying to catch them while they are still. The more you draw, the better you get - a great way to get those creative juices flowing after a day at work or school. And if you're more of a writer, why not compose a poem or song? Animal magazines are full of competitions for poems, photos, stories etc. This can be a useful thing to do when visiting animals in charities too - you're sitting in a corner drawing them will help them get used to someone being there.
Seriously, you can quickly build up quite a collection of photos, drawings etc and it's amazing how fast you can improve. It's also incredible how quickly you can progress and lose yourself in what you're doing. And it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of your efforts - what matter is that you relax and enjoy yourself in the company of your pet!
Could your pet be a volunteer?
Every year, thousands of pets - mostly cats and dogs, it has to be said - head into care homes, hospitals, hospices and schools to provide cheer, laughter, cuddles and contact with the outside world to patients, residents, their families and staff. Could your pet be such a volunteer? Click onto Pets as Therapy as an example.
Have you thought of training your cat? Cats are highly intelligent creatures - they would never think of doing things for themselves, that's what they have staff for. Dog owners may be more interested in Sit Stay Fetch to help train their pets.
Be thankful for your pet
Appreciate your pet's characteristics, his foillibles, the way he is throughout the day, his love for you and how he shows it, his little habits and doings. Never take him for granted. Celebrate your relationship on World Animal Day, 4th October - and make a vow to give some of your time to help those pets who are still looking for a loving home.