Friday, September 16, 2011

Rituals Can Help You Bond with Your Pet

By Julia Williams

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


  1. Isn't is neat how pets do this? With so many kitties, Hubby and I have been delegated (by THEM) for different routines; treats, luvvins, cuddling, everybody has preferences. And Cod help us if we deviate!

  2. This is so true! Our cats both have certain routines, as did the ones who came before. :)

  3. But how can you tell what they want? i can't differentiate what my cat's meows mean...he's not a huggy loving cat (only at nite in the cold months), but more of just play play play, so i guess that's what he wants? He goes to his same spot when he wants to play (under the kitchen chair), but other times it's confusing! lol Great story as usual Julia, i love all of them.

  4. We also have many rituals around here and most of them are my fault. Like when I get up, every one gets food. And that is getting earlier and earlier every morning. But I think animals like being on a schedule which I know from having horses all my life. They really depend on that schedule and do get sick if it varies too much. Great post.

  5. We sure have our rituals too. Brusing rituals, play rituals, feeding rituals, just way too mention to think of, but they are all impawtant! Happy Weekend everyone!

  6. I LOVE routines too. Like ... I stay in the bed after MOM gets up... and I make my dad take me fur my 10:00 PM last Pee Call. NEVER MOM fur this one.. It's a GUY thingy.
    I find that keeping to rituals really helps me keep my mom and dad feeling safe and secure. They seem to really KNOW what to expect. I guess peeps are Not as flexible as we fur folks.
    PeeS... Love the Butt in the Face thingy. It always makes my mom all squeally and stuffs. I live to make her happy you know.

  7. One of my favorite rituals is our lunch time ritual. Before I walk into the kitchen to make my lunch, I get out Allegra and Ruby's brush, and they both come running. After brushing, they get treats. On days when I'm distracted and forget about the brushing, they remind me!

  8. It doesn't take us long to catch onto new rituals here so long as they are related to food or treats!

  9. Me, I love routine and I keep mommy stepping right along a tightly drawn line marching in her own footsteps from each time before. I hate changes. But we are bonded tighter than paint on a wall.

  10. Spitty's Human says: Gee, I never know WHAT the heck Spitty's gonna do at any given time! But then he's an oddball in every way....

  11. Very well written Julia and I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. With seven in my household, it is especially important that routines are in place - kitties can be very susectable to change in a negative way (for example, bad litter habits) and it is important to try to give them the secure and loving environment that they are accustomed to. Sometimes you cannot avoid disrupting a routine, but you need to communicate with your cat that all will be well again soon!

  12. Misty, my yellow Labrador loves to walk even more than she loves to eat. We try and walk every morning.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...