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The point of this article isn’t to convince you to have a pet, and certainly not what kind of pet to own. The point is simply to explain the benefits of owning a pet and letting you decide if owning a pet is the right choice for you, as well as guide you through the process of choosing the pet that suits your lifestyle and personality the best.
When you go for an early morning walk at the beach, you might see dog owners running, swimming and playing with them. It’s difficult not to get swept up in the moment when you see pure joy and love between owner and pet. Pets have become very aware and in tune with their owner’s feelings and instinctively know when they need a nose nudge, a hug, a woof or meow.
Benefits of a pets as companion:
Humans need to touch and feel and one of the therapeutic effects of owning a pet is fulfilling this basic human need. Long term changes in the way people behave and show affection have been observed with criminals who have never experienced mutual love and affection and for the first time finding this by interacting with animals while in a correctional facility. When you touch, stroke or hug an animal, it may help to calm and soothe you when you feel stressed or anxious. Having a pet as a companion is beneficial as it can help you feel less lonely.
It sounds silly, but having companionship provides you with health benefits too. Companionship can assist in preventing illness and years to your life. Isolation and loneliness can make you feel depressed but caring for an animal gives you a reason to get up in the morning because you feel wanted and you are needed. It helps you shift your focus away from your problems. Most pet owners talk to their pets and some become more like emotional support animals because owners are able to work through their troubles with no judgement or unfriendly looks from their pets.
There is nothing like the wagging of a tail or purring of a cat to cure loneliness. It has been a great comfort to my mother who has been mostly immobile and bedridden for years to have companionship from her little Teacup Yorkie. While she is surrounded by people, they can’t sit with her twenty-four-seven. Her constant companion is a little Yorkie who she talks to, plays with and forces herself to get up and have short walks to engage her little dog with other experiences around the house and garden. The little Yorkie in return, loves the one on one attention as it’s a good one-person-only pet. You could say, she’s become an only child and my mother enjoys having a little furball around her all the time and feels less lonely.
Not only cats and dogs can be pets
When we think of a pet, we think of a dog or cat. We even ask people whether they are dog or cat people. There are many options to consider when you decide on getting a pet. If you are allergic to cats and dogs, a rabbit could be a good pet too. They require minimal space, can cuddle with you and are highly trainable. Birds encourage social interaction and will also help keep your mind engaged. Exotic pets like snakes, lizards, reptiles, rats, mice, guinea pigs make for good companions and watching a fish in an aquarium helps reduce tensions and lowers your pulse rate.
Benefits of pets for ageing adults
As mentioned above, having a pet is beneficial to people who are in need of companionship. As we age, things change and so does what previously occupied our time or gave our lives purpose. You might find yourself retired or your children have all grown up and moved away and are caring for their own families now. Taking care of a pet can bring you pleasure and fill up the time you used to do other things like taking care of children and no longer do. Having and caring for a pet helps you stay optimistic and gives you a sense of self-worth. You may choose to adopt a pet at a shelter, especially older pets who are not adopted as often. This also gives you a sense of fulfilment knowing you are providing care and a home to a pet that otherwise would have had to live out its remaining years in a shelter.
Pets, like children, add structure and routine in your day.
Having a healthy routine, regular feeding schedules and exercise isn’t just good for your pets, but you can benefit from it too. Having a consistent routine and schedule keeps you healthy, balanced and calm too. It doesn’t matter what mood you find yourself in, you have to get up and show up, to feed and care for your pets. This forces you to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other and carry on with life, even when you don’t feel like it. You have a “someone” who depends on you to do this.
Pet companionship can offer you comfort, ease anxiety, and aid in building confidence in people who are anxious about leaving the house and going out into the world. They force you to go out and live more in the present, forgetting about yesterday’s troubles or anxiety about what might happen tomorrow.
Pets help you be more social
This seems like a fabricated lie but it’s true. Dog lovers and owners will almost always stop and talk to dogs that are not their own and converse with other pet owners over this mutual interest and love. You meet other pet owners at the pet shop, pet clubs, training groups and in parks. They allow you to climb out of your shell and converse with other people who have similar interests.
Benefits of children having pets
One benefit of children who grow up with pets is that they have less risk of allergies and asthma. They learn responsibility, compassion and empathy for other beings. Pets don’t judge, they don’t give orders and are not very critical of their owners. They are loving and just having them present in our lives, creates and provides children with a sense of security and comfort. Pets also help ease separation anxiety when mom and dad can’t be around. Having a pet companion can make a child feel important and this helps to develop a positive self-image. Kids who form an emotional attachment to their pets are able to build better people-relationships too.
There are other benefits for kids to own pets
Kids can confide in their pets, without worrying that they will be rejected (or snitched on). It also helps children develop their vocabulary and studies have shown that one of the benefits of kids owning a pet is that it calms kids who are hyperactive and kids who become overly aggressive. Children also learn what it is to be responsible for another life because they have to feed it, play with it, clean after it etc. Kids are also able to develop empathy and understanding from pets.
Owning a pet is a commitment
Owning a pet is a 10 to 15 year commitment and some up to 80 years. You will have to care for that pet, love that pet and also carry a financial commitment. When your pet reaches the end of their lifespan, you have to carry the loss and you will have to face grief after losing your companion. If you are not an animal person or cannot carry the financial commitment, then perhaps a pet is not for you after all or just not yet. You are responsible for that pet and they cannot fend for themselves, so they are entirely dependent on you for absolutely everything.
There are benefits to owning a pet, but they are not always a cure all and only really provides comfort to those who appreciate pets and have the time and money to keep pets happy, healthy and fed. If you are not an animal person, having a pet won’t give you the desired comfort and effect.
Finding the perfect pet for you
Selecting the type of pet to suit your needs and lifestyle is an important process and one which you need to involve other members of the household. Make a list of qualities you want in a pet and which qualities you want to avoid as well as make a list of requirements for each type of pet so you can decide which fits into your lifestyle the best.
If you are a homebody, you may want to consider a pet that is happy to not change environments often. If you enjoy playing and cuddling, consider a cat or bunny. If you are an active person who enjoys walks, perhaps a dog would be a good companion as they also enjoy walks. If you have a small apartment with not much space, you might enjoy the company of a bird who can talk or sing with you. If you are someone who enjoys just looking at animals, perhaps a fish…
Pets for small children and the elderly
The size and energy levels of a pet is particularly important. Families with small children or the elderly living at home might consider a small dog as opposed to a big dog that could knock a small child or older person over and accidentally hurt them.
You also need to consider the pets you already have. Bringing home a big puppy could be traumatising for a cat if they are not used to dogs, and dogs who have never been introduced to cats might not enjoy having a cat around suddenly. Pets also become very attached to their owners and might not enjoy sharing them with a new pet. I brought home a puppy of 10 months and my other dogs did not enjoy the idea of having a new puppy in the house as they were used to receiving all of the attention all of the time and suddenly, they had to share the attention with another puppy. They did eventually grow to accept her, but not all animals accept new pets as easily.
If you are someone who wants a spotless home with no paw prints, hair or toys everywhere, you might want to consider a small animal that’s easily contained and their habitats easily cleaned, like a fish, reptile or even a small animal such as a hamster.
Keeping a garden perfect is no easy task if you have dogs as they like to run, dig and also relieve themselves outside. You need to list concerns such as landscaping so you are able to choose the correct pet around your concerns.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the lifetime of your pet. Dogs and cats can live anywhere between 10 to 15 and in some cases 20 years, some birds live up to 80 years and smaller animals like rodents live a much shorter life of around 2 to 5 years. You need to be able to commit to these lifespans but there are other ways around this also. If you have an elderly patient at home, you might want to find an older dog at an animal shelter. This will be beneficial to both the older patient and older animal as they get to live out the rest of their lives together and the likelihood of that pet outliving the owner would be significantly less.
Be honest with yourself about the lifestyle you live and the kind of pet that fits into that lifestyle. Take care of your pets and they will take care of you. If you are doubtful about caring for larger animals, perhaps start small and see how it goes from there.
Whether you purchase an animal from a reputable breeder or adopt from an animal shelter is entirely up to you but you might want to consider a shelter animal. These are animals who end up in a shelter by no fault of their own. They have either been left abandoned by irresponsible owners, rescued from bad situations or perhaps their owners passed away and ended up in a shelter. Shelters are very careful to adopt out aggressive animals or aggressive breeds of animals so you most certainly know that these animals have been checked out properly for health and temperament and offered up for adoption if they are deemed fit to adopt out.
Rescue groups try to re-home animals in suitable environments, where these animals would have been otherwise euthanized. This means that rescuers are keenly aware of animal behaviour, their personalities and will try to match them with the correct owners for successful placement. These animals are taken care of by volunteers who feed them, play with them and socialise them, so they get to know their rescue animals personalities and temperament and are able to match them with the right families or single owners. By adopting rather than shopping, you are giving a home to a deserving pet and you are also very likely saving its life.
Cats and dogs as pets
Cats and dogs are the most common types of pets found in a household, but their needs are very different from each other. Dogs enjoy the outdoors and need to be walked regularly, even if they enjoy a big backyard at home. Cats require less of this and enjoy the indoors, even though they do tend to wander off and have midnight choirs. Dogs can be trained to use a litter box, but typically, litter boxes are reserved for cats and dogs usually have an “outside bathroom”.
Both dogs and cats need training to a degree. Cats typically need to be taught not to claw at furniture and how to use a litter box. Most dogs enjoy training because it gives them something to do and they also have a strong desire to please their owners.
If you are someone who enjoys a quiet environment, mixed with some cuddling and some playing, you might enjoy the company of a cat. Dogs are highly energetic and enjoy greeting their owners with enthusiasm, so if you are someone who enjoys this kind of attention, a dog might be the right pet for you.
If you are not able to own a pet and enjoy their company right now, you can consider volunteering at a shelter where you are able to enjoy time with animals and give them some love and attention while enjoying the same from them.
There are many ways to enjoy the benefits of a pet, without owning one. You might even enjoy helping your elderly neighbour who is not so mobile anymore to take their animals for walks so that they might enjoy it.