1. When trying to find a roommate, make sure it’s one who will understand that sometimes life happens and that if they help feed or walk your pet, it’s like taking care of a family pet. Sure, you’re still footing the bills, but living with someone who doesn’t mind pitching in makes a world of difference.
2. Better yet — find a roommate who also has a pet (if your place is big enough). Your pet will have someone to play with both when humans are boring her, and when neither of you are in the apartment.
3. Calling your pet by its full name and not a nickname helps it register as a name (especially if you have a cat, because they totally hear you, they just willingly choose to not listen.)
4. Instead of letting toys live all over the place (and especially under the couch), stash them in a basket where your pet can get to them — they’re smart enough to figure out where the fun stuff lives, trust me.
5. I know it’s a pain, but set an alarm to feed your pet at the same times every day (yes, even the days you could sleep in; just go back to bed once they’ve been fed) so they know when to expect breakfast and dinner.
6. Leave the radio on when you leave the house; it helps alleviate separation anxiety because they still think someone is around.
7. Make sure your pet has a reflective collar (yes, even if you have an indoor cat, you never know) and possibly invest in a LED-light leash for your dog. If you have to walk them at night, it’s much better to know that people and cars will be able to see them, rather than running the risk.
8. Only date people who are okay with your pet — and whom your pet is cool with. If Fido doesn’t like the dude, that’s a huge sign. Listen to his judgment.
9. I know it’s tempting, but don’t give them table scraps. Really. There’s a whole host of human foods that won’t hurt your pet, but might give them mild distress, and if you’re the one cleaning up after them, it’s better for everyone involved that you don’t.
10. Clip your pet’s nails with an actual nail clipper designed for them, and not one you use on yourself. It’s less likely you’ll cut so high up that they bleed or get claws that curl in on themselves, but you’ll also save your furniture and floors.
11. Spend 15 minutes a day actually playing with your pet. It’s kind of like meditation, kind of like bonding, and even if you’ve had them for years, they’ll still respond just as well as they did when they were younger.
12. Keep a bell on their collar. I need to know where my cat is at all times because she’s a bit of a troublemaker, but even dogs can be quiet and you might need to know where they are. A bell is a dead giveaway.
13. Leave their carrying crate out and pad it with a bed pad or blankets. They’ll get used to it as a place to sleep — and will be less scared of it when it comes time to putting them in there if you need to take them to the vet.
14. Change their water every day. I know this sounds like common sense, but if you have a cat or a very small dog, they might not drink their whole bowl every day, and refreshing their water supply will help keep them healthy.
15. If you have a dog in a small apartment, putting a patch of astro-turf (y’know, plastic grass) in a corner of the room serves as a reusable puppy pad that isn’t a complete eyesore.
16. Take your dog on a run with you. When you’re at the dog run, actually play with them instead of just pitching a ball. Get active with them, and you’ll both benefit.
17. Brush their teeth. I know it’s a pain in the butt, but it helps their health a thousandfold.
18. And just remind them that you love them. Even though you might think they won’t understand if you bash them in the most loving voice, say nice things anyway. Because they love you back unconditionally, and you should remind them that that love is reciprocated as often as you can.
Brought to you by Purina, in celebration of their Better With Pets Summit: A gathering of thought leaders and experts from around the pet world on ThoughtCatalog.com today, Tuesday, 10/14 9am-4pm EST.