Martha's Five Rules for Raising Pets That Live Together Harmoniously

"The key to living harmoniously with pets is taking the time to train, nurture, and care well for them," she says.

dogs on porch furniture
Photo: Johnny Miller

There is no doubt in my mind that pets make any household more homey, friendly, and fun. To wake up to birds chirping, cats meowing, dogs whining to be let outdoors, and hamsters running around their enclosure waiting for breakfast is to experience life happening everywhere. I would find my home too quiet and empty if there were no cats, dogs, and birds in it. My first pets were a pair of yellow budgies, or parakeets, who lived with my then-husband and me in our tiny New York City apartment. Next, we adopted a cat from a county fair and called her Chigi-Toto. I fell totally in love with her, and vowed to always have a cat in my life. Then came my first dog, Little Bear, an adorable Keeshond, who was a great companion. She whelped a litter of nine babies, all of whom found homes with my friends. I've had so many pets over the years: 11 Chow Chows, four French bulldogs, 18 cats (Persians, Himalayans, and one black shorthair barn cat). Then there are my myriad canaries (mostly red factor) and blue parakeets, which are a recent—and very noisy—addition.

In the stables, we have five adorable Sicilian miniature donkeys. I have owned eight regal Friesian horses and one amazing Fell pony. In addition, there are 20 peacocks, 40 assorted homing pigeons, 17 geese from five different countries, more than 150 chickens, and numerous guinea fowl. We check on the animals every day, and keep regular cleaning and meal schedules. I feed them high-quality, organic foods and maintain good relationships with specialized veterinarians and groomers. It's no wonder my friends always tell me they would happily come back as one of my treasured pets. To me, that is a very high compliment.

Having house pets is a big responsibility, but one that brings so much joy. To ensure they are active and in good health, Martha gives them these essentials.

A Balanced Diet

Every month, Martha makes large batches of puréed beef or chicken mixed with fresh vegetables (carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes) and quinoa for her pups. Her birds eat greens and fruit along with their birdseed.

Room to Play

Martha's dogs get plenty of exercise each day in a designated courtyard outside. The kitties have free range of the house, and her birds have space to spread their wings. In her porch office, Martha has two spacious birdcages for herred-factor canaries and turquoise parakeets. They have room to fly, nest, and perch on apple branches cut from the farm.

Grooming Routines

Martha's dogs are checked daily for ticks and fleas, and she bathes them every few weeks. She brushes her cats every day, carefully removing any matted fur, which can cause irritation and hair balls.

Cozy Spots

Soft, supportive beds are placed around the house for kicking back or snoozing. For instance, Martha's calico Persians lounge everywhere in the house, seeking patches of sunlight when possible. She pampers them regularly, carefully washing their faces and ears.

Regular Checkups

Just like people with their doctors, pets need to visit the vet regularly and stay up-to-date on immunizations.

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