Be it a fur baby, a feathery friend, or a scaly buddy, animal companionships are one of life’s most rewarding experiences. With a greater understanding of animal sentience, we’ve now become more attuned to the needs of our domesticated friends – both physically, and emotionally.
Here are a few basic pointers that can help ensure a lasting friendship full of mutual love and cuddles.
Know how to hold them
Every animal has their own unique ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to how they like to be held or cuddled. For instance, most cats don’t like to be cradled facing upwards, like a human baby. Make sure your animal gets comfortable on you, and not the other way around.
As adorable as they may look, never hold an animal against their will, as they will most likely associate you with discomfort and stress. And don’t worry, they’ll let you know if you’re doing it wrong!
Understand their language…
The key to connecting is communication. And communicating with animals is easy; you just need to embrace animal charades. Every posture, every wag of the tail, even the shape of their ears and eyes has a meaning. There’s a lot of good info out there that can help decode your animal’s body language.
…And know they can understand yours
Experts in picking up on non-verbal cues, our animals can read us more than we’d like to give them credit for. Through hyper-sensitive senses, our pets can pick up a range of emotions, so it’s important we’re always sending out the ‘right’ signals.
Be especially mindful of rescued animals that may have experienced some trauma in the past, as certain motions (raised arm) and sounds (vacuum cleaners) may trigger a fight-or-flight response.
Spend quality time together
Not just for play, quality time can involve grooming, feeding time or even nap time. The key here is for them to associate your presence with pleasurable experiences. Reading a book near a sunny, warm spot in the house can further reinforce these trusting bonds. The more positive experiences they get to enjoy in your presence, the more they will bond with you. Keep them stimulated
It’s common knowledge that most dog breeds need a certain amount of physical activity to maintain their physical and mental health. And though cats may seem relatively low maintenance, keeping kitty preoccupied with climbing gyms can also do wonders for their wellbeing, helping them reconnect with their primal instincts. Scratch posts can also be helpful in ensuring kitty focuses her attention away from more precious furniture around the house. Even the simple act of letting the outdoor air through your home can keep your pets busy, sniffing all the different stories out there.
You may also want to look at some apps designed purely for pets. There are even YouTube channels dedicated to hours of bird watching! Just make sure you apply a protective film on your device’s screen.
And if you spend a fair amount of time away from home, you may also want to consider a companion animal to keep them company.
MORE: Is your dog bored?
Give them their ‘safe space’
Alone time can be just as important for animals as it is for us humans. Make sure there’s a spot in your house they can retire to with minimal human interference. This can come in handy when you have visitors coming over, and your pet can get easily spooked by strange faces.
Keep in mind though that spending a lot of time in their safe space can also be a sign that there’s something wrong with their health - so it’s worthwhile keeping tabs on them if they become increasingly reclusive.
Go slow with changes
Finally, it’s important to respect your animal’s timing for all things, especially when introducing your pet to a new environment, or to another animal. In many cases, it’s best to limit the amount of stimuli, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.