Four-Legged Family*

Whether you're doolally for dogs, crazy for cats, or fanatical about fish, if you live in England like me, you're part of a nation of animal lovers! In 2016, it was estimated that 40% of UK households include a pet, meaning that in Britain alone, we have approximately 57 million companion animals. My animal loving credentials have been well established on my blog, through my fundraising efforts for an animal charity on my birthday, and my animal ownership advice post during National Pet Month. As someone who feels more maternal towards her dogs than she does toward any human baby, I can certainly attest to the fact that pets are part of the family!

When your pet is happy, their joy is infectious!
When they're lively and playful, it really lifts your energy.
When they're at the door to greet you, you feel welcomed and loved!
When a pet passes away, you grieve for them as you would for any family member.

Pets are not only fantastic companions but they do so much for us as well: mind, body, and soul! I see this for myself every time my Dad and I take my Nana's terrier, Suzie, to see her in her care home. Due to an unfortunate bout of ill health which occurred three years ago, my Nana is now partially paralysed, is unable to walk, and her cognitive capacity is hindered, meaning that she requires 24 hour care in a nursing home. Although she spends a lot of her time in pain, nothing brings a bigger smile to her face than when Suzie leaps through her door and into her chair, ready to smother her in sloppy kisses! My Nana will happily sit and talk to Suzie for hours, and she loves seeing videos of Suzie playing with the other dogs in the garden at home. Visits from Suzie really are therapy for my Nana and that one little dog brings more happiness than she can ever know!

I'm by no means the only person to have experienced the incredible gifts that animals can give us. To prove my point, I asked my trusty Twitter followers to share their thoughts on how their pets have touched their lives. I was completely overwhelmed by the huge number of touching responses that I received! To name but a few, Debra shared with me how her rescue kitten Bear helps her fight off loneliness when her boyfriend is away serving in the Navy. Izzy told me about how her cat is a real stress reliever, helping her to fight the symptoms of anxiety. Kat says that her dogs have helped her mental and physical health, encouraging her to confront her chronic pain head on and take them out for the five mile walks they love!

Here are just a few of the other amazing stories of the power that our pets have to make our lives better:

Now, since it's clear that our animals do so much for us without even realising it, it's only right that we take care of them as best we can: giving them plenty of love, exercise, entertainment and (of course) food. However, how much thought do you put into what you feed your pet? I had a really shocking moment a few months ago when reading an article about dog chews. I always used to purchase rawhide dog chews as a treat for my puppers because I believed them to be a healthy option. Imagine my horror when I discovered that many rawhide dog chews actually contain GLUE!! I couldn't believe it - you wouldn't give Fido a Pritt Stick for dinner, would you? Without realising it, I'd been doing the equivalent.

I've learned the hard way that checking labels on the products you feed your pets is absolutely essential. Yet even the labels themselves can be misleading. Research by Data Label has revealed that ingredients that are not necessarily made with fresh or ethically sourced ingredients can sound as if they are, through a bit of creative marketing on the part of the manufacturers. The term "Meat Meal", for example, which seems inoffensive enough and regularly appears on food labels, actually refers to mushed up fatty tissues, entrails, and bones of animals which are not fit for human consumption. Yuck. Not exactly the high quality ingredient that you might hope to be serving up to Rover. Data Label are now calling for clearer labels on pet food so that owners really know what they're feeding their pet and can make informed choices in the supermarket. This is something that I fully support. Pets really are part of the family and we should put just as much consideration into their diets as we would our own.

Do you have a pet? Please tell me all about the effect they've had on your life in the comments below, stories of animal companionship really warm my heart!

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post