Friday, September 16, 2011
Like humans, dogs and cats are very much creatures of habit. They are perhaps even more dependent upon routines than we are, and sometimes the slightest deviation can upset them. On the flip side, sticking to a schedule with your pet can help with behavior problems. Daily rituals are also beneficial to pets and owners because they can help forge a strong bond. And isn’t that what we all want, to have a meaningful relationship with our four legged friends?
Personally, if I didn’t want to form a close bond with my cats I would just stick to pet rocks. But as an animal lover, I do want to have a great relationship with my pets, and I’ve found that daily rituals are a wonderful way to strengthen our connection. Rituals build trust, enhance my cats’ lives, and make them feel loved and wanted. It’s hard to say who enjoys our little rituals more, me or the cats, but what matters most is that they bring us closer day by day.
Rituals don’t have to be elaborate or expensive to be worthwhile, either. Even the simplest things – like always having a dog biscuit in your pocket when you arrive home from work, or grooming them every day at a certain time. These are two rituals I’ve employed for years with great results. Well no, I don’t actually use dog biscuits because my cats wouldn’t appreciate those, but they get FELIDAE TidNips treats every night before bedtime, and it has become a ritual they all look forward to. In fact, if I’m working late on the computer, Mickey will come in and loudly announce that it’s time for treats. If that doesn’t immediately produce results, he hops onto my desk and obscures my view with the classic “butt in the face” stance until I surrender. Mickey takes his treat ritual very seriously!
My grooming ritual with Belle has really taken our relationship to a whole new level. I began to brush her every day on my bed after breakfast. Soon, I noticed she would eat, wash up and wait for me on the bed. If I get caught up doing something else but pass by the bedroom door, I will see her sitting there waiting for me, and she gives a certain demanding meow as if to say “Get in here, it’s time for my brushing!!” Years later, this brushing ritual is my favorite part of the day…and Belle’s head bonks, drool (ewww) and purring lets me know how much she enjoys it too.
My ritual with Rocky developed somewhat accidentally. His favorite scratching material is carpet, and he would sometimes “forget” that he had a scratching post and use the carpeted floor instead. I started taking him over to the scratching post every morning when I got up, and every evening just before climbing into bed. After he scratched on it, he would get copious pets and hugs as a reward for being a good boy. Not long after, I noticed I didn’t have to take him to the post at those times – he ran over there automatically and did his thing! So it’s become our little ritual; he gets rewarded for using his post, and my carpeting remains scratch free (well…almost!).
Rituals that help you bond with your pet can be just about anything. As long as you both enjoy it and you can stick with it, the ritual will deepen your connection. It might be something simple like bringing out a special blanket your pet loves and curling up on it with them for five minutes. You can give your dog or cat a soothing massage, or just spend time each day “hanging out” with them in a certain location, talking to them, petting them and letting them have your undivided attention.
A great ritual most dogs love is the daily walk; when you do it at the same time each day, such as before work or after, you’ll find that your dog eagerly looks forward to it. Some indoor cats with outgoing personalities like going for walks as well; just ignore the scoffs of neighbors and this can be a fun ritual that helps you both stay in shape. Remember Roadrunner, the long distance running cat I told you about? She likes running so much that she gets upset when her owner and running partner Michael Greenblatt decides to skip a day. This is their daily ritual after all, and Roadrunner expects it!
Quality time spent with your pet is perhaps the most important ritual you can have; it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you commit to doing it regularly. This lets them know they matter to you, and in return they shower you with love in that special way only pets can.
Photo by K. Yasuhara
Read more articles by Julia Williams