What’s the difference between pets and children? Aside from no university or orthodontics fees, children eventually move out. Eventually.

Pets, however, are a lifelong commitment. Yes, they require work and a cast-iron stomach when it comes to refuse collection, but the rewards far outweigh the drawbacks.

To make this relationship last as long as possible, there are a few simple strategies to follow.

1. Vaccinations
Think of these as the equivalent of a prostate check. They come around quicker than you might expect but are necessary. As with so many other areas of medical science, veterinary medicine has advanced exponentially in recent decades and many of the potentially fatal illnesses can now be guarded against.

However, these inoculations can’t be downloaded, so ask your vet to send you a reminder when the jabs are due and do the animal you love a favour.

While we’re on the topic of medication, stay on top heartworm, flea and tick medications every three months. Look for brands including Comfortis, NexGard and Sentinel.

Do your pets and family a favour and make sure they are vaccinated

2. The right food
Just as your nutritional needs have changed with age, so too has that of your pet.

Food companies with dedicated puppy/kitten, adult and senior ranges are not merely engaging in creative marketing. Science Diet Original Active Longevity, for example, includes glucosamine for healthy joints.

3. Exercise
Remember how you could chow down on burgers and still maintain a whippet’s silhouette? Now you’re more a Saint Bernard. That’s a slowing a metabolism for you and the pooch or moggy is going through exactly the same thing as the calendar pages tick over.

Obesity can pose major health hazards (for both of you) and getting moving is key. If you have a cat, make time for play with toys that will keep them leaping and pouncing.

For dogs, walks are mandatory. Twenty minutes a day will do you both the world of good. As will a romp in an off-leash park. The hound will enjoy it too.

Make sure your pet gets a good night's sleep – it's far more adorable than being woken up in the early hours

4. Bedding
Prepare your “back in my day” stories now because there are animal beds on the market that run four figures plus. Clearly, these are not necessary.

What is necessary is enough firm support for the spine and joints, a removable cover that can (and must) be washed regularly to get rid of fleas and ticks and a blanket to snuggle into.

This last element is especially important with older animals in winter as age affects their body’s ability to regulate temperature.

5. Insurance
Imagine for a moment that your beloved pet needs a major operation – one costing the same as a second-hand hatchback. Now imagine not being able to afford the fee and having to see the animal in pain. Or worse. The sting of a monthly fee is nothing compared to the alternative.

The fact is that at some point, the animal will need substantial medical care and on that day, you will be glad you had pet insurance.

As with anything that comes with fine print, pop on those bifocals, read it carefully and ensure you’re across what’s included and what’s not.

6. Toys
At first glance, this may seem like an extravagance but hear us out. Just like their human counterparts, animals get bored and anxious. Especially if left alone for extended periods. This can result in furniture-chewing, cushion-shredding boredom or clingy neurosis. Neither of which are much fun.

A shifting roster of toys will curb both behaviours by focussing attention elsewhere. Especially if they have treats secreted inside them which take some work to retrieve.

The RSPCA’s website has a wide selection and you will be helping the work of one of Australia’s most compassionate organisations.

What type of pet do you have?

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