As I walk towards my home on a windy winter evening, I find myself experiencing one of two emotions. Either I am looking forward to the slew of paws and snouts that is about to descend upon me as I walk through the door, or I am dreading this encounter, and merely wish to flop down on the couch and have a couple of quiet moments to myself.
If you are a pet owner, you will know exactly what I am talking about. While we may love our pets to death, we will still feel the odd negative emotion welling up inside. After all, we are only human, and we can’t always be either positive, or selfless.
If you are considering getting a pet (for the first or nth time), I hope I can help you make the right decision, both for yourself, and the animal that may or may not enter your life, by giving you my 8 reasons to own a pet (and half as many not to).
You Get to Meet New People
Owning a pet is a great way to meet new people (and this is true of more than just dog owners).
Sure, the dog needs to be walked and exercised, and they will introduce you to plenty of other canines and their humans. But cats, parrots and even fish can do the same.
You will need to score them some food, meaning you will need to go to a pet store, where you can chat to the person making the same purchase, and exchange your views on your cat’s nocturnal habits, or your parrot’s vocabulary. You will need to take them to the vet, where you will engage in similar chit-chat.
Or, if you are the type of person who likes to use Google to learn more about their pet and the best ways to handle certain situations, you can get friendly with other pet owners on blogs, forums or on your favorite social media platform.
Pets open you up and can even force you to get out of the house and start having conversations with others. As you spend more time with them, you will become more confident and more positive, making you more likely to talk to other humans as well.
They Can Improve Your Health
Owning a pet can also significantly impact your health, and I’m not talking about falling down the stairs in the middle of the night having stepped on a chew toy.
Living with a pet can lower your blood pressure. All the positive and cuddly emotions you get to experience in their company are great mood boosters, and your heart and cardiovascular system will reap the benefits.
Children who grow up with dogs and cats are also less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma later in life. However, do note that if you already suffer from either, having a pet may only worsen your symptoms, so make sure to consult your doctor before adopting an animal.
They Will Lift You Up
Pets can be an incredible source of happiness. After a long day at work, after a domestic with your significant other, after anything and everything in life: they will be there to make you laugh, and to cuddle up next to you on the sofa.
Owning a pet injects a regular dose of endorphins into your bloodstream, so knowing that there is someone looking forward to seeing you can give you the motivation you need to get through a bad day.
Your mental health will also improve if you choose to share your home with an animal. Dogs and cats can reduce your levels of anxiety and depression, as they force you to focus on something outside yourself, plus they shower you with all that affection and force you to play.
Living with a furry companion will also make you feel less lonely, further enhancing your life. The companionship they provide, especially to older adults, can truly be irreplaceable.
They Will Love Your Forever
Unlike humans, animals aren’t vindictive, judgemental or evil. They run on instinct, as opposed to either the emotion or logic that tends to mess up our human relationships.
Having a pet means you will never need to be alone again. They will accept you for who you truly are, and won’t care one iota about your appearance, your bad habits, or your perceived failures. As long as you are there for them, they will be there for you. It is one of the most honest and genuine exchanges of positive energy you can find.
If you also find a pet who matches your personality and fits into your lifestyle, you will have found a partner for the duration of their life.
They Will Make You a Better Person
Taking care of a pet teaches you an incredible lot: about yourself, about life and about the world in general.
You will be forced to form all sorts of useful and beneficial habits: cleanliness, responsibility, empathy, patience, compassion, gratitude.
You will be forced to step out of your comfort zone, and put someone else’s needs above your own.
You will get to know what kind of person you really are, which is always the prerequisite first step to growth and change. You may think you are the king of all introverts, only to discover you love spending time with other dog owners in your local park.
Owning a pet will also do wonders for your self-esteem, making you both more attractive and more desirable, in every sense of the word. Whether you leverage this newfound strength to chase your dream job or to find the time to lend a hand in your community will depend on your personal goals and inclinations.
You Will Be Less Stressed
Having a pet will also reduce your daily stress levels. At least most of the time.
Granted, there will be times when the pet itself is the source of the stress, especially if they keep waking you up during the night, or demand your attention when you are already under stress.
However, in general, especially as you get to know each other better, a pet will inspire all kinds of positive activities and emotions, and help you step out of your daily gloom. A good walk with your dog will boost both your mental and physical health, and make you feel a whole lot better.
Whenever you are able to shift your mindset from what is currently ailing you to someone else’s needs and behavior, your mind will start to de-stress. And having a pet will provide plenty of adorable incentive.
You’ll Have Access to Home-Made Comic Relief
The internet is full of funny animal videos, as you may have already noticed. Which begs the obvious conclusion that animals are wonderfully gifted comedians.
Owning a pet often means being privy to some drop-down-on-the-floor-and-roll-around-laughing moments. You often don’t even have to do anything to inspire the comedy – your pet will make you laugh all on its own.
Laughter also happens to be the best medicine, so watching your cat miss a landing or your dog hypnotized by a frisbee can liven up your day no end.
They Are, Well, Adorable
Pets also happen to be darn cute. Cat videos are the most popular thing on the web with good reason (forgive me for being the cat person that I am).
Just looking at your pet doing their own thing, whether it is bathing, twitching in their sleep or trying to murder your slipper will provide a source of bottomless joy. If you are in need of some feel-good emotions, your pet will be happy to oblige.
And now for the less-than-wonderful aspects of owning a pet:
Pets require a certain amount of maintenance: how much will naturally depend on the animal itself. Even your goldfish will need to be fed and their tank will need to be cleaned, so there is no pet that will require zero effort.
Small pets, like hamsters or rabbits, can demand a fair amount of your time too, while cats and dogs top the high-maintenance list (dogs coming in at number one), so don’t expect to get a day off ever again.
Do expect to be cleaning up a lot of poop, washing a lot of food bowls, and to soon find yourself looking to invest in a better vacuum cleaner.
Expect to be bothered by it too: not all the time, but at least some of the time. No matter how much you love your pet, the fact that you have to clean up yet another barf stain will at some point send you a tiny bit over the edge.
Owning a pet also comes with a cost. How much you will need to spend per month will again depend on the pet, but you can expect your household expenditures to go up.
The food, the toys, the vet bills, the cage or tank, the brushes and grooming: all of your pet’s supplies will cost you money. Of course, you will be able to find most items at both the higher and lower end of the scale, so unless you are having a very hard time making ends meet, you should be able to afford a pet.
Do just please make sure that you take expenses into account when selecting your new family member. Some dog and cat breeds for example need better quality food, regular trips to the groomer, or may suffer from complex health issues that will require regular veterinary care. Understand what you are letting yourself in for on time.
Introducing a new member to your family is bound to disrupt the dynamic you previously had going on.
If it’s just you, the disruption will be more significant, as everything will fall on your shoulders. The more family members share in the duties and joys of taking care of a pet, the easier the burden will be for each individual.
Taking care of an animal, especially a cat or a dog, takes a lot of effort, and a lot of time. A few years down the line, when you have gotten completely used to each other and are able to gauge each other’s moods, you will no longer feel the disruption as much. But when you first bring a pet home, make sure you have the time and the energy to cope.
If you love your lifestyle as is, and if you aren’t prepared to give a little (or a lot), perhaps now is not the best time to consider a pet? The last thing you want is to take on a responsibility you can’t handle: it won’t make either you or the animal happy.
Finally, some would argue that you will be better off if you don’t let yourself fall in love with an animal. After all, they have shorter (sometimes significantly shorter) lifespans than we do, so chances are you will experience losing a beloved pet.
And while coping with grief and loss is never easy, and your heart will certainly suffer when an animal you have spent so much time with is no longer with you – I find this argument to be utter crap.
Loss is an integral part of the human experience. If we are to shelter ourselves from pain completely, we might as well never care about another living being.
Don’t be afraid of the emotional rollercoaster that comes with being a pet parent. It won’t always be easy, but it will certainly be magical.
To Get or Not to Get a Pet
If you are on the verge of making an animal a part of your family – take some time to carefully consider all the ups and downs that come with owning a pet. If the time is not just right, hold off for a while.
A pet can make your life much more fun and enjoyable – but only if you are ready for the commitment. Never base your decision on an impulse: you don’t want to find yourself regretting it.