Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Starting the New Year Right for Your Pets

Starting the New Year Right for Your Pets

By Steph Selice

We all greet every January with high hopes and the best of intentions, and many of us resolve to ensure this new year will be the best one ever. To rephrase Mark Twain’s famous quote, instead of paving hell with annual good resolutions to ourselves in 2020, how about focusing on what we can do for our pets? We’re much more likely to keep our promises to our beloved animals!

Taking Even Better Care of Your Pet

This could be the year you help your cat lose weight or get your dog out to the puppy park more often. A veterinarian we asked ran through the checklist of what pets need us to provide for them continually.  (This is also a good checklist for anyone who has not had a pet but needs to be reminded of the daily responsibilities that come with the fun.) This includes spaying or neutering for longer, healthier lives—not only cats and dogs, but also rabbits, ferrets, and chinchillas, among other small mammals. The vet reminded us about appropriate food and treats, regular exercise, routine vet visits and vaccinations, grooming (including washing, hair or fur maintenance, nail trims, and ear cleaning), and updated medications and vitamins as needed. She also mentioned taking pet photos regularly, getting collars and name/vaccination tags, and microchipping or otherwise IDing your pets as other ways to protect them in case they are lost or taken.

As part of an annual home safety check, security experts recommend planning how you would move your pets out of your home in case of an emergency and how you would travel with them if you had to leave immediately. Preparing for who would care for your beloved critters if you couldn’t is also essential. This means having updated contact information and vet records for designated caretakers, family members, and veterinarians as well as a current will, so that your humans know what you would want them to do for your pets.

Making the Most of Your Time Together

Another vet we spoke with mentioned that for busy people in Washington, DC, with demanding schedules, taking the time to just be with your pet can sometimes prove a challenge. She recommended just putting down the phone (or turning it off) and trying not to work or multitask while enjoying your pet’s company. To socialize with your pet and other humans and their critters, she mentioned using social media and other networking to find like-minded people who also love pets like yours for meetups—not just for petsitting or dogwalking, but just for fun.

Adopting a New Pet in the New Year

Maybe this will be the year you adopt a new pet. Animal rescuers agree that deciding with your family on what kinds of animals would be happiest with you all is the first thing to do before adopting. Once you’ve talked about this, they recommend meeting lots of potential pets at rescues and shelters (including pet stores that work only with them and not with breeders), and talking with people who have similar animals as well as with adoption counselors. You can follow up by visiting animals you’re interested in at least a couple of times before deciding which pet your family wants to adopt.

Adopting a shelter animal, not buying from a breeder, is what pet people advise. And you’ll help reduce the shelter population without promoting the sale of overbred and often mistreated breeding animals.

If you and your family are interested in a particular breed, many breed-specific rescues and sanctuaries have knowledgeable, devoted volunteers and offer excellent adoption alternatives. These organizations are often highly active on social media and networked not only locally but regionally or even nationally.

Fostering a Pet Who Needs a Home

Helping all their animals find loving homes is a never-ending task for rescues and shelters. One way that helps pets become socialized and makes them even better prospects for adoption is through foster care with loving people and their pets. Rescues are always looking for loving foster families for their animals. You may not have the circumstances to adopt another pet right now, but you can still make the most of the love you have to give to another animal. Talk with your family about fostering through an animal rescue until your foster friend finds a forever home.

Volunteering for Animals

If this is the year you want to get involved with animal rescue, there are dozens of groups in metro DC that are just waiting for your help. From adoption counseling and fostering to shelter work, vet shuttles, fundraising, social media, public relations events, and marketing, every animal rescue group needs to care for many animals while raising money and public awareness. If you’re interested in working with wildlife, Virginia offers sanctuaries and rescues that cater specifically to their care. Some organizations will also help train your pet to become an animal ambassador by visiting hospitals, speech and hearing centers, senior residences, and schools.

Your kids can get involved, too. Many local rescues and shelters have programs for children and their families. Kids can help in other ways that are highly effective. This year, instead of expecting friends and family to bring the newest gizmos as gifts to a birthday party or a graduation, why not suggest that your kids ask for toys, food, or supplies for shelter animals? You and your kids would be helping someone’s future pet have the best year ever.

About the Author: Steph volunteered with King Street Cats in Alexandria for 7 years and now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and their two kitties Dorian and Callie, who were adopted from city neighborhoods in Virginia and Delaware.

Resources—Selected Animal Shelters and Rescues in Virginia

The dozens of reputable animal shelters, sanctuaries, and therapy animal programs in Virginia and regionally include these:

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

(Adopts to residents within 25 miles of the shelter)

4101 Eisenhower Avenue

Alexandria, VA 22304


Animal Welfare League of Arlington
2650 S Arlington Mill Drive
Arlington, VA 22206
(703) 931-9241

Fairfax County Animal Shelter
4500 West Ox Road
Fairfax, VA 22030

Friends of Rabbits and House Rabbit Sanctuary
(Adopts to residents of metro DC)

P.O. Box 1112

Alexandria, VA 22313


King Street Cats
(Adopts to residents of metro DC)

25 S. Dove Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


Operation Paws for Homes, Inc.
(Dog rescue for VA, MD, DC, and south central PA)
P.O. Box 90813
Alexandria, VA 22309

Pet Partners®
(Nationwide network of therapy-animal programs, including Germantown, MD)
Bellevue, WA 98005

425-679-5500, M–F

Rikki’s Refuge Animal Sanctuary

(1300 animals and 22 species on 450 acres)

Kerry Hilliard, Director

P.O. Box 1357

Orange, VA 22960
Visits by appointment;

Wildlife Rescue League of Northern Virginia
P.O. Box 704
Falls Church, VA 22040
Helpline: 703-440-0800, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. 7 days a week
To volunteer:
All other questions:

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