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What Does It Mean to Be a Good Animal Guardian?

Written by Ashley Palmer | March 8, 2012

I know I’m not alone when I say that my cats are my children. Many of us have little “fur babies” we share our homes—and our hearts—with. My kids are Gracey and Bo, and they’re the rescued loves of my life!

Until recently, I would have always considered myself to be an excellent cat “parent.” But Gracey (pictured to the left with her favorite toy mouse) recently had some daunting test results at the vet, and that’s when I realized that I can do better. Just like any relationship that becomes neglected over the years, I’ve noticed that we also often overlook relationships with our animal companions for the same reasons: because we’re “too busy,” “too tired,” or otherwise distracted.

Those test results made it abundantly clear that I didn’t have forever and that my time with Gracey was limited—or could even be tragically cut short.

It was then that I began spending a little more time scratching her behind the ears, wiggling her toy mouse, and making sure her litter box is extra-tidy. These may seem like small things to you, but they mean the world to her. Luckily, a second round of tests concluded that Gracey’s condition was not as grave as the vet and I had feared. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll fall into my old habits.

Why do we often wait until our loved ones are sick to show them how we really feel? It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re lucky enough to have a cat or a dog in your life, then give them big hugs, special treats, and plenty of attention. You never know when it could be your last chance. Luckily, we all have the opportunity to be better guardians to our animal companions. It’s an ever-evolving process, and we should cherish every minute because the seconds go by too fast.

Do you have a cat or dog? What will you do to be a better guardian? Share your story in the comments section below or on PETA’s “Confessions” Web feature.

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  • lilspeth says:

    My cat and I have a special love – a real bond – and I think along these lines too. I really try to spend time with him even though I’m dead tired or super busy. I think of all the sacrifices and extras my own parents gave to me and of course, I think the same for my cat! I don’t really think I fully understood “love” until this one came along – for I am here to “serve” this wonderful creature rather than to be simply entertained. In the end, my life is so much richer and grows more so by the day.

  • boringdoc says:

    While there never seems to be a shortage of humans that disappoint, there is an abundance of furkids that make the planet a better place. After a (long) day at the office, Wolfie and Ellie are always home to remind me of what is really important.The routine of hand chopped black beans (they think it’s fun to eat them; actually just licking the bean juice off), topping of the high grade kitty kookies, refreshed water supplies and cleaning the (safe) pine-based litter is my way of saying to them : “thank you for making me a better person”

  • chander kumar soni says:

    please adopt animals.
    stop buying animals from pet stores.

  • Chelle says:

    This si such a lovely written arcticle and so true aswell. I have three furballs and a dog, well technically only two furballs are mine but Im constantly doing peoples heads in talking about them like they are children. But they are, they are my kids and bring so much fun and joy into my life. They are the best companions when you’re in a good mood and also the most sensitive and caring things when youre upset. Id be lost without them. I have had pets in teh past that i have loved and lost and although i swear that its too painful to do again, I still end up getting more. For what they have brought into my life and how they have enhanced it, they deserve nothing but the best 🙂

  • paxton says:

    ..I learned this lesson from my first cats..then I got a lovely big funny tuxedo..I promised him when he was young that I would tell him I loved him a million times …& I hope I did..I used to sit with him watching tv and scrateh his ears & say I loveyouiloveyouiloveyou & any other time we were together ( he was quite a busy outdoor cat) so maybe I did reach a milllion….& when at last he did go at 14 after five weeks of illness, . I was comforted by the fact that i had done that..that, I hope, he must have realised how special he was..& that he was never taken for granted, not for one second.

  • Karen says:

    My family lost our little Nefertitti last year; she was very sick towards the end; nothing we could do she was born very weak. We spent a lot of time giving her speacil treatments, cleaning out the box twice daily to have it extra nice for her and Gorda; giving her medicines, and taking extra care of her, even having to cut up her meal into these tiny pieces. I never thought of it as a hassle, I was happy for the time we had with her. It was such a small price to pay.

  • Elle says:

    I totally agree with this. My cat is my baby and I love her to death, so much so that I recently finished working long hours in a dead end job to take on working from home. It made me feel so guilty leaving her at home everyday (I was away for 12hours a day at the time) especially given she’s an indoor cat. So I made a change I now get to work at home with her; we have such a strong bond now. Our pets are such an important part of our lives and we should do everything we can to make sure that bond is kept strong!

  • In Memeory of Oscar says:

    King Oscar, as he was sometimes called, lived life for 18 years, the past two years after having his spleen removed with cancer. He lived as he was found, a fighter, a friend, a teacher, a HEALER.a son. Bless You little tuxedo cat, go over the Rainbow Bridge, and remind us all how lucky we are to love and be loved in return by our loyal and loving fur babies. Your friend, Medallion.

  • Joy for Medallion says:

    Medallion is a rescue cat, he was named for the medallion shaped patch of fur on his chest by his “grandpaw”. It is his medal of honour for having survived outside, until he chose to live here. I had steps built to my bed, to his favourie window seat on a bookcase, and a kichen chair no longer at the table, but placed strategically beside the counter for him to easily get up to see outside. He is told on a daily basis that I LOVE him, and I greet him excitedly at the door when I come home, so he knows how special he is and how happy I am to see him. He is loved, and safe here, he deserves all of lifes best. I would do anything for him so he is content. When I sometimes get busy in my office at my home, I seek him out, and pick him up, speak tenderley to him, play with him, and let him know I’m here. I just made a keepsake print of his little paw in clay, something I have wanted to do for a long while now, because we never know when these bundles of fur are called away.

  • Thais says:

    ¡¡¡I LOVE MY CAT!!! <3

  • RRGreyhoundMama says:

    This is a great article – and brings up a great point. It’s important to adopt older animals as well so the time that they do have on this earth can be loved. I had a friend that adopted a 10 year old retired racing greyhound and she lived to be 21 – she got her second chance at life and they all deserve that. God Bless every animal advocate and parent for all that you do … we have to stay strong!

  • donna says:

    We have 4 beautiful children. They have their own personalities and we love them dearly.

  • Precious says:

    This makes me want to cry!! but all together we can help these poor animals have their lives!!! come on every second of their lives are being damiged’torcherded and threatned! tell your friends and family about this .close your eyes and act like your them.wouldnt want to say somthing to them but you just cant well their stabing u and shaving off your skin for fun! your crying so much but they just dont care !everytimeill see an animal ill ask my self'”why do they do this! to have fun?” commet on this if you agree. comet fast because every second counts for their lives! :'(

  • jos meuskens says:

    Wonderful pledge. All of you who have lost a loved pet suddenly, will feel the pain and sometimes the guilt for not doing or loving more in return. Our beloved cat had diabetes for 8 years and eventually, after several hospitalisations and some 6000 injections, died of kidney failure at the age of 17. Show your love through going the extra mile. We sure are glad we did.

  • kathy says:

    I have 3 furballs. Living with cats is a joy. Each has their own distinct personality – including neurosis. My last cat lived 22 healthy years. The day I finally had to put him down I called a car service. Explained that I was putting my cat down, and to tell the driver to just wait and bring me home – no matter how long it took. I was sobbing. The driver, Marie, told me driving home that she rescued dogs and cats. That she had two kittens ready to be adopted. She gave me her card and said, “you saved an animal once before. When you’re ready, save another.” I waited a week – called. I said, “I really only want one cat.” She said, “I’ll bring both so you can choose.” I did. That’s how I got Itchy & Scratchy – brother and sister. Smudge just showed up in the middle of nowhere at a friend’s Mom’s house. I am grateful everyday. I know my time with them is short. They are cherished – weirdoes that they all may be.

  • anna says:

    achei lindo. wonderful this pledge.

  • Francis Casburn says:

    She’s beautiful.

  • Jess says:

    Sadly we lost our tabby Matches in August 🙁 heartbreaking he had a heart condition we were unaware of which only gave us seven short years with him. He brother from the same litter has a similar problem and there is really nothing we can do. Our goal is to make Gustoph (matches’s brother) as happy as possible while he is with us no matter how long it is. I encourage people to adopt older animals even though i know the pain of loosing a furry love one. i would rather know they were happy in life no matter how short it maybe.

  • Carly says:

    My cats are my babies, and that’s how I treat them. They bring so much to my life, I want to make sure theirs are special!

  • Kasia Mahood says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I love my “kids” unconditionally!!

  • EMRodrigues says:

    I have two boy cats, Marcel and Dexter. Some people think spoiling your pets means fancy toys and dressing them up in little outfits, but you are so right; its about putting your time and effort into making their lives amazing. The boys are strictly indoors, so I worry their days are boring. Lately I have been putting a stool in front of a window when I leave in the morning. Its not always the same window, and its not everyday, so its ‘new’ and one of them always jumps up immediately and takes a look. They must take turns during the day because when I get home there is always the other’s pair of eyes watching me from inside. Its such a small thing but I think they like it.

  • Melissa says:

    This is such a touching article. I love it! Thanks for writing to remind us to care a little more for our best friends. I’m going straight home after work with to my cat Jewel with some fresh catnip!

  • Julie Schultz says:

    I have lost two precious cats due to old age,and i was so happy knowing i gave them the best kittie years of there life. I now have a 5 year old cat and a 6 month old boxer, and everyday i wake up i make sure i do something to make them happy,i play with my kittie give her treats and nice warm bath when needed, and she is always there for me giving me so much love. My puppy goes to the beach or park everyday, and i give him a bone after every meal and of coure tons of toys, he also loves me and protects me.I could never imagine not doin these things for my little fur babies.

  • deborah elliott says:

    i just realised how much i take my cat and dogs for granted cos they are always there it felt like i have all the time in the world with them . even though one of my dogs has epilepsy , i was in tears reading this article. thankyou so much for highlighting this story.

  • Rachel Eden says:

    I could not agree more! My mom’s doggie, India, died unexpectedly a couple of months ago. She was only 7 & besides being a sad and difficult time, India’s passing made me much more aware of the fragile nature of life. My dog 11 year old hound, Otis, was her best canine friend and life-time companion. I have devoted a lot more of my time to comforting Otis, knowing that he has lost his loved one. It has also reminded me to cherish every moment that I have with Otis, because that is how it should be! Loving eachother is wonderful, but expressing that love is the whole point of being alive. When we don’t know if we even have tomorrow, we need to show our love today!!!