If kept confined for long hours, pets can develop health and behavioural problems

Pets are like people in many ways – they too want to enjoy the same privileges that we have, including freedom and space. Often, people acquire companion animals only to relegate them to a cage or a crate, or keep them tied habitually. They are under the misconception that all they need to do is provide regular food and water, but animals too love the company of people and need intellectual stimulation through these interactions. Habitually imprisoned pets suffer the risk of loneliness and depression.

Apart from their desire for companionship, they also need light exercise and fresh air. Both cats and dogs need to move around freely inside the home and enjoy a change of scenery from time to time. Your dog might like to trot over to the balcony and watch the neighbours walk their dogs in the early hours of the morning, and your cat might enjoy chasing around a sliver of sunlight from one room to another in an attempt to curl up in its warmth. And both pets will take great joy in being played with.

Says Samyuktha Kal, who rescued and adopted four dogs, “Animals, like humans, should not be sitting or lying in the same position for hours. We can see the damage the IT industry is doing to our spines. For animals too, this factor matters, as their bodies are designed to be constantly on the move.”

When they are kept confined for long hours, they are at risk for health problems like obesity. They may also gradually start to exhibit behavioral problems like constant whining or barking for attention, and in some cases their frustration (from pent up energy) leads to aggression. Unfortunately, some of these animals are beaten or abandoned for these reasons, when they are merely trying to show their humans that they are unhappy. The solution is for them to be given a much needed change of lifestyle with plenty of attention and affection – so do continue to keep your dog on leash while on walks or in public spaces, but unleash him once he is safely indoors. Samyuktha sums it up with a simple piece of advice for all of us who experience the unconditional love of a furry one – “Companion pets are not your property. They are your children.”