Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. (Already, I know.) While traditionally a day for humans to celebrate their love for one another, there’s no reason animals can’t get in on the love action, as well.
Firstly, they deserve it. Secondly, whether you’re flying solo or joined at the hip, everyone loves animals, so why not spread the ‘feels’ around a little? And finally, did I mention they deserve it?
Okay, you’re on board with the idea, but what to do? You can’t very well give Rex a box of chocolates. You’re trying to make him happy, not sick. And dinner and a movie might be nice for you, but it’s not really his thing, is it?
Even if you don’t have a ‘Rex’ in your life, there are lots of ways you can show your love for animals this Valentine’s Day. From farm animals and wild critters to ocean dwellers and those living in sanctuaries, I’ve got plenty of ideas to help you spread the love.
14 Ways to Show a Little Love for Animals
Some are super easy and take just a few minutes to do, while others require a much bigger time commitment. Big or small, all of these ideas will make a difference to the animals we share our planet with.
See if you can round up friends and family to join you in making this Valentine’s Day about more than just chocolates, stuffed toys and heart-shaped balloons.
Speaking of balloons, here’s why you should avoid them like the (plastic) plague. They’re terrible for the environment, particularly animals, and with any luck they’ll go the same way as the plastic straw.
1. Sponsor a Farm Animal
Let’s face it, sharing your house with a pig isn’t practical. One minute they’re small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the next thing you know they weigh 600 pounds. You’re better off sponsoring a farm animal instead.
The cleanup isn’t as bad, and your neighbors won’t complain. Some farm animal sanctuaries will even send you updates on how your friend is doing. You get all the benefits without the hard work.
2. Go Vegan for a Month
What better way to show your love for animals than by signing up for Veganuary? Who cares if it’s February! Go ahead and register anyway.
The vast majority of animal products consumed nowadays is factory farmed. By choosing not to support an industry that causes so much suffering, you’ll be making a huge difference to the animals who find themselves at the mercy of it.
And anyway, making tasty vegan food is surprisingly easy and cost-effective. Ditching meat, eggs and dairy is also better from a health standpoint. In other words, you have everything to gain except excess weight. Caveat: this only works if you eat like a reasonable adult.
3. Take Your Dog for a ‘Free’ Walk
Daily walks are a big part of a hound’s life. If your dog only ever gets to walk on the leash, see if you can take him somewhere he can run free for a while. It could be an early morning sojourn on the beach or a visit to the local doggie park.
If off-leash really isn’t an option, at least take Rex for a ‘no time limit’ stroll. So often, we humans impose our schedules on our animal friends. Yes, life is busy, but it’s just as important to slow down and spend quality time with your pooch.
4. Volunteer at a Shelter
Animal shelters are invariably overpopulated and understaffed. It’s the unfortunate nature of their business. Help is very much appreciated in whatever form it’s offered. You could walk the dogs, hang out with cats, play with the puppies and kittens, clean cages, bathe the animals, do admin, the list goes on.
5. Sign a Petition
When you’re short on time, signing petitions is a fantastic way to make a difference. It’s so easy, you could make it part of your daily routine. All you have to do is choose a petition to support and add your name to the list. If you’re really feeling the love, you could share it on social media, too.
6. Make a Donation
Find an animal NPO you want to support and send them some money. Donating online is the norm nowadays, and most charities also give you the option to make it a recurring payment.
Out of sight, out of mind is the reason most of us don’t do more to help. We mean to, but then life happens and we forget. Committing to a monthly debit order eliminates that problem.
7. Adopt a New Friend
Of course, if you have the time, space and inclination, adopting a new friend is a wonderful way to show your love for animals. Especially if you consider adopting a senior dog or cat, whose chances of finding a forever home are slimmer than they are for a cute kitten or a rambunctious puppy.
8. Build Your Cat a Cardboard Box Castle
Cats love boxes. Nobody knows for sure why that is, but does it really matter? Boxes are cheap, easy to come by and provide hours of entertainment for your furry friend. Why wouldn’t you want to build your cat a cardboard box castle for Valentine’s Day?
9. Visit an Animal Sanctuary
Animal sanctuaries do incredible work. They play a vital role in the lives of those who, for whatever reason, aren’t able to fend for themselves in the wild. Visiting a sanctuary gives you the opportunity to learn more about their work and the lives of their residents.
10. Do an Animal Communication Course
Doing an animal communication course or learning more about animal behavior will enable you to get more in tune with your pet. So often, we impose our own thoughts and opinions on our animals instead of taking the time to figure out what they really need.
11. Become a Guide Dog Puppy Walker
Becoming a guide dog puppy walker isn’t a walk in the park, though you will be doing plenty of those if you sign up. Along with a significant time investment, there are plenty of other prerequisites to raising a future seeing eye dog.
You’ll also need to keep in mind that saying goodbye won’t be easy. However, all that said, it’s right up there as one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. This interview with Jay Taylor, puppy training supervisor at Guide Dogs (UK) will help you understand if it’s for you.
12. Foster a Shelter Pet
Fostering plays a crucial role in the animal rescue world. For one thing, it reduces the time the shelter pet spends in a cage while waiting for their forever family. More importantly, though, fostering teaches these animals that they’re loved. It also equips them with social skills and shows them how to be a part of a pack.
Fostering teaches kids about the responsibilities of caring for a pet, and it can also be a way to heal when you’ve suffered a loss in your own life. It’s more flexible than adoption and not as expensive, since most rescue organizations will cover the animal’s medical bills.
13. Swear off Single-Use Plastic
Single-use plastic harms countless animals every single day. It’s literally turned the ocean into a “minefield” for animals, all for the sake of convenience. Show your love for animals this Valentine’s Day by swearing off single-use plastic. With so many reusable alternatives available, it’s really not hard to do.
14. Avoid Unsustainably-Sourced Palm Oil
Palm oil is by far one of the worst foods for the environment. Found in everything from snacks and cereals to canned food and cosmetics, unsustainable palm oil production poses a major threat to endangered species.
According to Earth Touch Network, a blanket palm oil boycott is not the answer. They claim it could actually increase deforestation. A better approach is to use only those products made with sustainably-sourced palm oil.
Iceland’s TV Christmas advert—which was banned in the UK on the grounds that it would have breached political advertising laws—introduces us to a sweet little character called Rang-tan. If you’re still on the fence about palm oil, this little guy’s heart-wrenching story is sure to push you over.