If you’re contemplating a new pet, you’ll be happy to hear about the numerous health benefits that pets can provide. Based on what type of animal you choose, adopting a pet may encourage you to spend time outdoors and become more physically active. Pets offer companionship along with responsibility and a greater sense of purpose. By lowering our stress levels and offering unconditional love, pets contribute significantly to their owners’ quality of life.
The first animals that come to mind for many people when talking about pets are cats and dogs. These popular furry friends have lived alongside humans for generations. If you grew up with a pet, you might already have a good idea about what to expect. However, each animal comes with its own unique personality, so even pets from the same species or family can behave very differently. Here are some factors to consider when deciding on the right pet.
Dogs vs. Cats
Dogs are perhaps the most loyal companions a pet-owner could ever want. Most breeds are energetic and fun-loving, while also needy and demanding at times. Bringing home a young puppy is a surefire way to boost your physical activity level. The American Heart Association has found that dog owners are 54% more likely to get their recommended amount of daily exercise. Taking your dog to the dog park or going for walks around the neighborhood can present opportunities to meet new people. Your dog is a built-in conversation starter.
Dogs provide the added benefit of security. A barking dog can help fend off home invasions or a dangerous attack. If you live alone and want to be safer in your home, a dog can be a comforting friend to have around. Of course, dog breeds vary quite a bit. There’s a big difference between owning a small dog and a large dog. If you’re someone who works long hours or likes to take frequent vacations, you’ll need to be honest with yourself about whether or not it’s the right time to get a dog.
Cats are a lower-maintenance alternative to dog ownership. Many cat-lovers prefer their independent, albeit at times, distant, personalities. If you have expensive furniture or other pets in the house, cats can present a bit of a challenge. Unlike dogs, cats don’t require walks, baths, or constant attention. They may snuggle up to you at the end of a long day but otherwise fend for themselves. Outdoor cats are prone to more infections and injuries, so be prepared to visit the vet as needed if your cat spends a lot of time roaming around the neighborhood.
The age and background of your dog or cat will have a big influence on their demeanor. Abused animals may require special care and might not do well in noisy environments or around young children. An older pet can make the perfect companion if you plan on moving in a few years or don’t have the energy to keep up with a young pup or kitten. Animals that spent part of their lives outdoors, such as an outdoor cat, might have a tough time adjusting to life in a small apartment. Getting to know as much about your future pet as possible before you decide to adopt can help you make a choice that will be most compatible with your lifestyle.
Additional Pets to Consider
Other popular pets include turtles, bunnies, guinea pigs, snakes, ferrets, birds, frogs, and mice. If you’re not familiar with what life would be like with one of these pets, visit your local pet store or Humane Society and strike up a conversation. Animal-lovers are always happy to discuss the ins and outs of various pets and might have some personal stories to share. You can also spend some time observing the animals at the pet store to get a better idea of what they might be like at home. Fostering a pet can be a better alternative to adoption if you’re still on the fence.
Keep in mind that lizards, turtles, snakes, and frogs often require a temperature-controlled environment and regular feedings of live bugs. If you’re caught debating between a guinea pig and a hamster, take note that guinea pigs like social interaction, while hamsters will want lots of toys to stay busy. Because hamsters are nocturnal, they might spend most of the day sleeping. Birds also make for interesting pets, but they can be very noisy. Some have an exceptionally long lifespan. Parrots can live for 75 years or longer. It may seem strange to think about, but you should have a plan in place if your pet is expected to outlive you.
If you’re not quite ready to commit to an unruly pet, you could always get a fish or two. Fish tanks can be beautiful to look at and require minimal maintenance. If you decide that after a few months you’re ready to take on a new pet, adding another animal to a home with a fish tank is usually doable, as long as you make sure the tank is in a secure location.
The Cost of Pet Ownership
Beyond being cute and cuddly, pets can be a lot of work. Owning a pet is a big commitment that isn’t without financial and personal obligations. You’ll need to invest in food, healthcare, and a proper environment for your pet to live in. Most pets will require their tanks, cages, or litter boxes to be cleaned regularly, or you’ll need to take them out for daily walks. Before jumping ahead to take home a pet, it’s essential to research the full scope of owning the pet you want.
Take into account the amount of exercise and attention your new pet will require. Pregnant women, young children, and people with compromised immune systems will need to be extra careful around certain types of pets that have the potential to spread dangerous diseases. Reptiles, amphibians, and backyard poultry can be hazardous to children under age 5. Due to a parasite called toxoplasmosis, pregnant women should avoid caring for kittens, stray cats, or changing a litter box. Always wash your hands after handling pets and keep their habitats clean and tidy to prevent the spread of disease.
Coping with the Loss of a Pet
Pets become family. Unfortunately, many pets do not have a long lifespan or may be susceptible to accidents or illness. As much as pets bring us joy, they can also be the cause for profound heartache if and when anything happens to them. For some people, the potential sadness of losing a pet prevents them from getting one in the first place.
Loss is a normal part of life. As difficult as it is, we shouldn’t allow the fear of a loss to keep us from building meaningful connections with others, including our pets. Losing a family pet presents an opportunity to teach children a valuable life lesson about how to deal with grief in a healthy way.
If you’ve suffered in the past from losing a pet, consider grief counseling to address this wound. Just as there are some physical injuries that we cannot recover from without treatment, the emotional pain of loss can require us to pursue healing actively. Don’t make the mistake of rushing out for a replacement pet when you’re grieving a loss. Instead, put in the time and effort to heal your heart and prepare to welcome your new pet when you’re ready.
Our mission is to walk with you, hand in hand, through the necessary action steps to actually “recover” from your grieving experience. We offer grief coaching and support services for individuals, groups, and organizations from all walks of life. We specialize in helping grievers and their families, and we strive to consult with, educate, and support the community at large including companies, organizations, schools, and religious institutions. Even though you’ve endured painful changes in the circumstances of your life, we extend our hand of support to you, and invite you to embark on your journey of healing.