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10 fun ways to spread happiness to animals

Tomorrow is April 22—and millions of people worldwide will come together to celebrate Earth Day, the annual event born in 1970 to highlight support for important environmental causes. Will you be celebrating? You can do a Google search to find local Earth Day events near you, or even search this map on the official Earth Day website for ideas.

Since we share our planet with animals, I’m going to celebrate Earth Day tomorrow by spreading happiness to animals. How am I going to accomplish that, you may ask? Here are 10 fun ways:

1. Plant a bee-friendly garden. This doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking; even a window container or one or two new plants added to your patio can help to spread happiness to pollinators. Other ideas: Use only natural pesticides and create a “bee bath” with shallow water, rocks and twigs where they can safely land and drink. In case you need a reminder, here’s why bees are so vital to our planet.

2. Save a spider. What do you do when you find a scary spider in your house? Many of us call over our spouse to “take care of it,” and some of us even smoosh it. But in honor of Earth Day, I ask that you humanely put it in a glass cup and set it free outside. (Try it: See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?) In case you need more convincing, here are eight reasons why we should all spare spiders.

3. Meditate with your favorite animal. Your cat, dog, guinea pig, iguana or horse will love the extra time with you, and your inner self will thank you for making peace a priority. I suggest you try this wonderful Joshin Kokyu Ho meditation.

4. Bring home a foster. If you love animals, but you’re not ready to adopt your forever friend just yet, fostering may be for you! Fostering lets you help your local shelter in many ways: by freeing up space for another homeless animal; by learning the animal’s personality so he or she can find the perfect forever home; by providing the critical social skills many cats and dogs need in order to be adopted. If fostering isn’t a good fit for you right now, you can still spread happiness by donating supplies, walking dogs and offering Reiki treatments to help the animals in the shelter’s care.

5. Go meatless. Instead of eating traditional hot dogs, steak or hamburgers for your cookouts on Earth Day and beyond, it’s easy to choose yummy, meat-free alternatives: Check out this list of 50 delicious vegan grilling recipes. Every time we make conscious choices when eating, it’s a small act to help farm animals. While this will not bring happiness to them today, my long-term vision is that one day we can end factory farming forever.

6. Pet animals gently. No doubt, our animal companions love attention from us—but is it possible to love them a little too much? In terms of affection, yes. A recent study suggests that most dogs don’t just dislike being hugged—hugging actually raises their stress and anxiety levels. To determine if your dog really wants that hug or not, click here first and learn how you can perform a quick “consent test.” To be safe, stick with petting, which always brings them happiness, and share safe handling tips with kids.

7. Read a book to your dog. This may sound crazy, but it’s not. Reading books aloud to your dog is actually wonderful bonding time—they’re happy to listen, and they love spending time with us. To try it out: Snuggle up with his favorite blanket and read in a calming tone. When finished, reward his good behavior with a treat. Not sure what will pique his interest? It’s probably not Moby Dick. Try Three Stories You Can Read To Your Dog by Sara Swan Miller. (She has a version of the book for cats, too—let me know if you try it!) Shelter dogs love being read to as well, so if you volunteer, think about bringing a book next time.

8. Keep wild birds safe around windows. It’s so sad when a bird from my yard slams headfirst into one of my windows. It’s even sadder when the strike could have been prevented. Let’s keep birds happy (and headache-free) this Earth Day by making our windows more visible. The Humane Society lists easy steps you can take here, as well as how to help if a bird flies into your window anyway.

9. Build a bat house. Have you seen Batzilla the Bat on Facebook? If not, you must go there immediately and see the cutest little bat pics and videos you can imagine. (I think baby bats kind of look like puppies, don’t you?) Batzilla the Bat is a social media sensation started by conservationist Denise Wade in Australia, who dedicates her life to saving bats in need. She’s an inspiration. You can keep your local bats happy by building a bat house, a safe place to sleep and rear their young—and with summer just around the corner, just think how great it will be to have a creature nearby who can eat more than 1,000 mosquitoes a night! The National Wildlife Federation shows how to build a bat house here.

10. Share some special treats with your favorite animal. For many of us, food equals happiness. Animals understand this, too! So why not surprise them this Earth Day with some tasty treats. Does your horse love apples, carrots, bananas, hay cubes—or even sugar cubes? (Sugar cubes aren’t exactly healthy, but they are a traditional treat for horses and fine when given only occasionally.) What about your cat? An extra helping of tuna perhaps? You know your animal best, so spoil her with what she really loves. Many dogs enjoy a spoonful of peanut butter—just make sure it’s the raw, unsalted kind. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous in the kitchen, here are some ideas for healthy, homemade dog treats and cat treats.

Tell me: How will you bring happiness to animals tomorrow for Earth Day?

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