As much as we do for our pets, it’s rare that we stop to think about how much they do for us. Their unconditional love and affection doesn’t just make us feel warm and cozy, it also brings measurable health and psychological benefits that improve our overall well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), owning a pet can help decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and feelings of loneliness while boosting opportunities for exercise and socialization.
We owe our pets a whole lot for all they do for us, and it never hurts to occasionally show them how much you love them with a healthy spoiling session! Here are some pet appreciation ideas that go far beyond the standard treat-and-cuddle program.
- Surprise Them with Fun Toys They’ll Love—Surprise your pet with fun toys that are sure to become lifelong favorites (unless you have a pup who loves to chew, of course) and spend time playing with them. Keep your kitties busy with catnip toys, tunnels and stick toys with hanging feathers.
- Take Them to the Park—A stroll in the park…what could be better? Your pet needs exercise as much as you do, and enjoying the outdoors together is an amazing way to bond. Make it extra pet-centric by going to the dog park. Invest in a cat stroller so that your feline friends can go on adventures, too!
- Dress Them Up—We’re not saying you have to go head-to-toe costume or sweater, but little accessories make them look SO cute and SO loved! We’re big fans of patterned pet bandanas because they add a little pop of style and personality to your pet’s look without getting in her way!
- Take Them to Volunteer—Having your animal trained as a volunteer therapy pet is one of the best ways to bond, starting with the certification process. Once your pet gets the go-ahead from the organization of your choice, such as Therapy Dogs United or the AKC Therapy Dog Program, you can take her to comfort people in schools, nursing homes and hospitals.
- Take Them on a Hike—Breaking out of the typical neighborhood exercise routine is a fun way to show your pet that you love them and want them to explore the world! It’s also a great excuse to get some exercise and lap up all the benefits of being outside yourself.
- Take Them to the Pet Store—For gregarious dogs, few things are quite as exciting as taking a trip to the pet store, where the sights and smells abound! Take your pet through all the aisles, taking note of the treats and toys they seemed to like the most, and then buy them their favorite item.
- Give Them a Pet Massage—Animals are just like humans in that they have a complex system of joints, bones and muscles that can get sore and achy. Alleviate some of the pain by giving them a full-body canine or feline massage targeting their specific pain points. Massage therapy is also a good way to calm nervous, anxious or stressed-out pets. You can find instructions on how to give your pet a professional massage on YouTube.
- Make Them Homemade Treats—Did you know that baking for other people (and, presumably, animals) provides psychological benefits? Yep, the experts say that baking for others increases your feelings of mindfulness and self-expression, which could make you happier and reduce stress. Making homemade pet treats is also an awesome way to ensure that your pets only eat stuff that’s good for them and to save a few bucks, too.
- Set Up Pet Playdates—Pets are like humans in that they need socialization with others in order to be happy, content and satisfied. If you have a dog, you can occasionally set up play sessions with other pups in the neighborhood. Cats need socialization too, but it may take a bit more time for them to warm up to each other.
- Get Their Picture Taken with Santa—Every year, local pet stores and organizations host opportunities for pet owners to get snapshots of their pets with Santa or the Easter Bunny, and we think few things are quite as cute! Often, these events serve as fundraisers for animal welfare organizations, so you can feel great about participating.
- Take Them to Work—If you have a pet-friendly workplace, consider taking your pet to work once in a while. Even if it’s just once a year on National Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 21) or National Take Your Cat to Work Day (June 17), introducing them to your co-workers and work environment is super fun!
- Make a Donation in Their Name—While your pet might not feel an immediate sense of love and affection with this one, other animals will benefit, and that makes everyone happy! If you rescued your pet, consider giving a gift to the organization where you got her.
- Make Them the Center of a Photo Shoot—There’s nothing wrong with having your pet’s portrait taken on occasion, especially when you put them in adorable outfits or have them pose in front of fun backdrops. Consider doing a seasonal shoot in the fall or winter and using the shots for your annual holiday card or as a piece of adorable, pet-centric wall art.
- Make Affection Part of Your Daily Routine—Animals thrive on routine, and when they know they can anticipate something special or comforting—such as a before-bed pet session or an afternoon walk—they’ll look forward to it all day. Make your love and affection routine and watch your pets thrive.
Show Love Every Day
Of course, it’s vital that you show your pet love every single day, not just on special occasions or when you feel you owe them for all they do for you. Sprinkle in little acts of appreciation throughout the week to make sure your furry family members feel completely and totally accepted and loved.