With the New Year approaching, here are five resolutions that will make our companion animals happy

1. Quality time: Pets need more than just regular feeding and a roof over their heads in order to be really happy. No matter how busy you are, take a few minutes every day to play with them, walk them and give them undivided attention. Throw a frisbee with your dog, or play with your cat using a long, shiny ribbon – and give them freedom within the home when you are away. Animals that are constantly tied up or confined to the same space become depressed and lonely.

2. Care for their health: Animals are low-maintenance buddies who give you a whole lot of love in exchange for basic care, which we must give them without fail. This includes never forgetting to vaccinate them on time, and bathing and grooming dogs regularly. Treating them for fleas/ticks and getting them veterinary attention when they have skin problems saves them a lot of unnecessary suffering. Never ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away by itself.

3. Watch what goes into their mouths: It’s a bad idea to give your dog a slice of chocolate cake (chocolate is poisonous for them), just like a small dose of Paracetamol (or its equivalents) could kill your cat. Human foods and medicines are never to be given to pets, and since there’s a long list of dangerous foods, the best solution is to give them only vet-approved foods and medicines, and nothing else.

4. Don’t buy them, don’t gift them: Buying animals from breeders and pet stores contributes to an industry where they are often exploited for years and later neglected or abandoned. If you want to bring home a new family member this new year, visit an animal NGO instead and adopt one. And even if your friend or relative loves animals, do not gift him a pet. Wait till he adopts a pet on his own volition, and shower his new furry friend with pet treats afterwards.

5. Don’t have a pet? Be a long-distance owner: Symbolic adoption is a term used to describe people who cannot keep pets, but are willing to sponsor the upkeep of a homeless pet in a shelter. NGOs like In Defense of Animals (http://idaindia.org/sponsor) and Visakha Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (http://vspca.org/sponsor) have these options, where you can read the story of a rescued animal and pledge your support for his/her care for a fixed period of time. You can also dedicate the donation to a loved one as a gift.