Ever had a moment of clarity where you realised you made a mistake with your pup or kitty? Maybe your cat has trained you for their chosen mealtime by complaining at the crack of dawn, or your let your pup jump on guests because they’re still small and manageable (but won’t be for long).

If you’re nodding along, welcome to the club – we’ve all made pet parenting mistakes.

Here are seven of the most common ones. How many have you made?

1. Inconsistent training

It’s a story we all know well: You’re trying to get your pup onto a healthy diet, while another family member is sneaking them treats. Or maybe you’re trying to train a command, while someone else is sending mixed signals.

Remember that pets don’t know the rules of your home – it’s up to you to teach them, and keep it consistent. Make sure all family members are on the same page and are encouraging the same behaviours in the same ways.

2. Letting them be a loner

While some dog and cat breeds are naturally more outgoing, if you want a pet that’s friendly with other people and animals, you need to socialise them early.

Socialising cats is straightforward – just invite guests over, and have them gently and slowly get to know your cat. Keep in mind that some cats will never be friendly, but if you don’t want your kitty quivering under the bed every time you have guests, it’s vital to get them used to the sights and sounds of new people early on.

Dogs are socialised in a similar way, but it’s even more important to socialise your pup with other dogs. This can be done through puppy training classes, doggy day care, park walks, and introducing your pup to the pets of trusted friends and family.

3. Unhealthy eating habits

Some pets can be free-fed (the practice of having food available at all times) and will self-manage their eating, while others are highly food-motivated and will vacuum down any morsel put in front of them, even if they aren’t hungry. The situation can become even more complicated if you have multiple pets with different eating habits.

It’s vital to tailor your feeding schedule and even feeding locations (for multi-pet households) to each pet. Things like food insecurity, resource guarding, and overeating can lead to a range of health and mental issues and should be addressed as early as possible.

We explore the dangers of pet obesity in more detail here.

4. Sharing medication

You might have heard that some human medication can be given to pets. While this may be true, only a vet knows the ins and outs and can prescribe appropriate medication. The same goes for giving your cat your dog’s medicine (or vice versa) – even if they’re the same size and weight. An accident with medication can cause serious illness or death, so it’s always better to check with your vet.

5. Too much tough love

Every pet parent knows the frustration of having your freshly planted hydrangeas dug up or your favourite pair of shoes desiccated. While it’s understandable to be on the verge of losing your cool, remember that your pets react strongly to your tone of voice and body language.

You may think you’re being stern, but a sensitive pet can become stressed if your parenting style doesn’t match their personality. If you notice any of these responses, it’s time to take a step back and try a gentler approach:

  • Aggression
  • Attempting to hide
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of toilet training
  • Lowered body language
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Whale eye (showing whites of eyes)

6. Not enough playtime

Some breeds – particularly those that are intelligent or predisposed to being working dogs – need much more mental stimulation than a cat or your faithful lapdog. When your tried-and-tested games just aren’t holding their interest, try new things like teaching commands, hiding treats, puzzles, or hide-and-seek.

Remember, a bored pet will often become destructive and entertain themselves with your furniture, garden or clothes.

7. Being unprepared for emergencies

When you bring a new pet home, the last thing on your mind is illness or accidents. You may think it’s unnecessary or your savings account will stretch to cover it, but treatment can quickly spiral into the tens-of-thousands of Rands. The sad reality is, you could easily find yourself in the heart-breaking situation of having to put your pet down because you can’t afford the healthcare costs for a treatable condition.

Inspired? There are still a few months left of 2020 and you can still get the Pet Parent of the Year prize from your pets . Here’s an extensive guide.  You may also be curious about pet heath tips from the dotsure.co.za’s August Vet of the Month. Are you a good dog mom? Here’s a checklist.

And finally, the quickest and easiest way to be a financially responsible pet parent – get pet insurance today!