In the past few months, many of us have found ourselves confined to the house much more than before. With social opportunities limited to online interaction or telephone calls, we’re all craving a little more personal contact.
We may not be able to visit in person with friends and family, but pets can provide meaningful companionship. If you’ve been on the fence about pet parenting, now may be a good time to consider if a pet could be a welcome addition to your life.
Benefits of Adopting a Pet
Pets are great companions, and any pet parent will tell you how much joy and love their pet brings to their lives. But, in addition to providing entertainment, pets can also benefit your health.
Pets are good for our health partly because they give us an excuse to be more active. Walking and playing with pets, and even feeding and cleaning up after them, adds a little more activity into our daily routine.
Because they provide companionship, pets can also help reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation. Many people even find themselves having entire deep conversations with their pets. After all, animals are great listeners and they’re never too busy to talk! And many of them love to snuggle too.
According to the CDC, people with pets experience the following health benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
If you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue, you’ll have the added benefit of knowing you saved a life by giving your new addition a forever home.
What to Consider Before You Adopt a Pet
The physical demands. Pets, even many that are considered low maintenance, do come with some physical demands. Depending on the pet you choose, these may require you to leave the house to provide exercise, bend over to scoop food or clean a litter box, or clean a cage or a tank. They also may introduce dirt and fur into your home that requires time and effort to clean up. Before bringing any pet into your home, it’s important to know what’s involved in its care and whether you have any health limitations that could make it difficult or unsafe for you to provide those needs.
The financial demands. The financial demands of adopting a pet goes beyond the initial purchases involved with adoption. Consider the cost of pet food, bedding, toys that need to be replaced, and veterinary care. Many pets require routine visits to the veterinarian to keep them in the best health, and you’ll also want to be prepared for emergency visits just in case.
The commitment. Right now, many of us have lots more time on our hands, so caring for a pet may be easier than ever before. However, our routine will probably change once “normal” returns. Before you adopt a pet, it’s important to think long term. Consider their probable life span. How will your life change once things go back to normal? Will it impact your ability to provide care for your pet? Do you have a plan so that your pet will be well cared for if travel or illness requires you to be away from home for a time?
What Type of Pet to Adopt
The type of pet that’s best for you really depends on your lifestyle and preferences. Your own general health, activity level, and tolerance for commotion are all factors to consider. People with weakened immune systems need to be especially careful about choosing a pet since they are more susceptible to illnesses that can be passed from animals to people. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor, and possibly a veterinarian, if you have questions about how a specific pet could impact your health.
Dogs and Cats
Dogs and cats are loyal, devoted, adoring companions. Some dog breeds are definitely more demanding than others, so it’s important to do your research if you’re considering bringing home a canine companion. All dogs need exercise, but some breeds are much more active than others. And ALL puppies are energetic and require training and frequent potty trips outside. Kittens also have lots of energy and are much more likely to race around and occasionally attack you unexpectedly. Adopting an older pet may be an option if you love dogs or cats but need a pet with less energy.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians can be fascinating and entertaining. And because they are usually confined to a tank, their mess is much more confined than an animal that has the run of the house or who can throw food and bedding out through the bars of a cage.
Fish are affordable and easy to care for. Watching fish in an aquarium can also benefit your health by reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, and even improving your sleep!
Birds are smart, social, and don’t take up a lot of space. Many of them enjoy learning and can form strong bonds with their people. All birds are vocal, though some tend to be much noisier than others, so be sure to choose a quiet bird if noise bothers you!
Other Small Pets
Other small pets, like guinea pigs, hedgehogs, and other rodents can make great pets, especially if you have limited space. Each species has different needs and personalities, and many may require daily time out of their cage in order to get the exercise and mental stimulation they need. Some are highly intelligent and bond with their owners.
Can’t Adopt a Pet? Try Fostering!
If you’re not quite ready to adopt a pet, fostering is a great way to enjoy animal companionship. When you foster, you provide a temporary loving home for a pet until its adoption.
If you’re interested in fostering a pet, contact a local shelter or rescue organization that cares for the type of animal that interests you. They’ll be able to give you details on their specific foster program and current needs.
Fostering a pet can be lots of fun and can give you the opportunity to meet many different animals. And you never know when that perfect pet will enter your life and give you a reason to make him a permanent part of your family!
Even if you can’t foster, you may be able to support your local shelter or rescue by donating supplies, or by volunteering at an animal shelter to help care for their animals on a schedule that suits you.
There’s no question that animals have the ability to improve our lives, but they also deserve the best care we can give them. If you decide that you have the circumstances to adopt a pet, you’ll be rewarded with companionship, entertainment, and maybe even improved mental and physical health!
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