By Janet McAfee

Animal lovers are special people with wonderful hearts who appreciate the affection and companionship our cats and dogs provide to us throughout the year. Pets can also help us enjoy keeping our New Year resolutions. Setting goals to improve your health and happiness will also improve the health and happiness of your pets. You may want to include some of these resolutions on your list for 2015.

There are a dozens of reasons why having a pet will automatically improve your health, including reducing your blood pressure, stress, and loneliness. If you resolve to quit smoking this year, you are also taking a step to improve the health of your fur friends who share your home. A smoky environment is particularly harmful to cats that ingest carcinogens during grooming. Improving your diet and that of your animals can work toward better health and cancer prevention.

Taking your dog for walks keeps both of you healthy, alert, and happy. Athletic folks can enjoy jogging and hiking with their pups. If you resolved to lose weight this year, your overweight status may be shared by your pet. I was amazed to learn that 50% of all cats and dogs are overweight to some extent. Obesity in pets and in their people is linked to cancer, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, and decreased life expectancy of up to 14 years in humans and up to 2.5 years in their animals.


A pet offers you new opportunities to get fit, get outdoors, and in doing so enjoy a greater bond. As you select healthier foods, make sure to provide better nutrition for Fluffy and Fido. Watch the portions you give your pet, and avoid serving high calorie and potentially harmful human foods. Fresh carrots, green beans, steamed broccoli, banana slices, and apple slices are great diet options for both you and Fido.

Having a domestic pet will open new horizons and adventures that you did not anticipate. Pets are natural ice breakers. That adorable dog you walk down the street or take to the dog park might result in your meeting a new love interest with whom you have something in common. You score extra points with new friends when they learn your dog is from a shelter or rescue group. Walking a dog provides seniors new opportunities to meet neighbors and make new friends.

If you resolved to help other people in 2015, pets may also play a role in that resolution. If you have a calm dog who likes strangers, consider getting him certified as a therapy dog and bring some joy to hospital patients or seniors in assisted living. If you want to help homeless pets, volunteer at one of the many shelters and private animal welfare organizations in the Coachella Valley. Walk a dog for your sick or elderly neighbors. Offer to cat sit for someone who is in the hospital. Help with litter box changing and cat feeding for someone who is physically disabled.

It is no surprise there is a proven link between stress with obesity, depression, heart disease and many other human ailments. A domestic animal in your home can help reduce all these medical problems. Service dogs are trained to help combat Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cope with anxiety as they readjust to civilian life. Our animals are there to support us all during difficult times. Their antics make us laugh, and laughter is the best medicine of all.

A New Year is a time for new beginnings and second chances. That applies to both humans and our treasured cats and dogs. If you are still “petless” as 2015 arrives, there are hundreds of wonderful animals waiting for you at our public shelters and private rescues. Adding a second animal to your home usually works out well. A previous article discussed how to add a second cat, even if you think Fluffy prefers to be the only spoiled feline. Adding a second dog usually works out well, as long as you thoughtfully plan and introduce them on neutral turf.

Visit our largest public shelter, the Coachella Valley Animal Campus at 72-050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, or view their adoptable animals online . Call (760) 343-3644 for shelter hours. Call Loving All Animals in Palm Desert at (760) 834-7000 for a list of all local shelters and rescues.

Happy New Year 2015! My wish for everyone is that you get to experience the unconditional love and companionship of an animal this year.