Spring cleaning and gardening are on many minds as the weather warms and brightens. This is also a good time to pay some extra attention to the family pet, reports the Humane Society of the United States.

For families that don't have a dog or a cat, this is a good time of year to consider taking one in.With the warm, sunny days of spring, it can be tempting to let pets run free, but the society urges pet owners to resist the temptation. The results, in deaths and injuries, can be devastating.

Cats should be kept inside all year with toys, companionship and a securely screened window perch to keep them happy, the society says.

Dogs, it advises, should be confined to a fenced yard when outdoors and walked on a leash.

At this time of year, it is important to have dogs tested for heartworm, an often fatal infestation that is increasing across the nation.

The disease is spread by mosquitoes and can be prevented by medication once the blood is tested to make sure no worms are present.

Having the test done provides a good opportunity for a regular veterinary checkup for pets, and that is also a good time to make sure vaccinations are current.

The arrival of warm weather raises the possibility of flea and tick infestation. If these pests are a problem in the area, flea collars may be needed, or flea treatment for the pets and the house and yard where they live. Be sure to use approved sprays or other chemicals and don't put dog flea collars on cats or vice versa - different animals tolerate different chemicals and using the wrong collar can make a pet ill.

Many runners are spending more time outside now, taking along their dogs for companionship. But a dog that has been lounging around the house all winter should be conditioned slowly. Dogs want to share in your activity and may injure themselves trying to keep up if they are out of shape. Some dogs, particularly short-nosed breeds, are better left at home, the Humane Society reports.

The warming weather also means that is the time of year to stop bringing the family dog along on trips to the store. The inside of an automobile left in the sun can get dangerously hot in just a few minutes, even with the windows open. This can be fatal to an animal.

The society also suggests that, for families without a pet, this is a good time to take one in.

Free-roaming animals are the principal source of unwanted litters of kittens and puppies that wind up being put to death at shelters across the nation.

It is the abundance of those kittens and puppies at this time of year that makes for lots of choices for would-be pet owners at the shelters. This is also the season when many people offer unexpected pet offspring to friends or merely to good homes via classified ads.

Before bringing home that cute little animal, however, remember that it will take time, money and attention. Make sure someone is willing to train and care for the pet, get it medical care and provide daily companionship.