The myriad health benefits of having a pet are well-documented in the medical literature. The evidence is clear: having a pet is good for your health. Of course, anyone who has experienced the love and comfort of curling up next to a warm, furry dog or cat will tell you that it’s a special kind of joy.
But before heading straight o the local animal shelter, you’ll need to devote some careful thought and planning to the decision to bring an animal into your life. Particularly for people with chronic illness, considering the effort and commitment involved in caring for a pet is essential to making the right decision for you. You should consider what you want out of having a pet, and the needs your pet will have. Chris Woolston from Consumer Health Interactive outlines some things to think about:
Cost. When you add up the cost of food, litter, leashes, chew toys, and vet bills, pets can be expensive companions. A dog or cat may be unable to bring you much joy if it seriously strains your budget.
Space. Is there enough room for two or more active beings in your home? In addition to just plain elbow room (or the animal equivalent), a cat will need space for a litter box, and a dog will be happiest with a fenced area for outside play.
Time. Are you ready to dole out love and attention on a full-time basis? Do you have the time to keep a pet clean, well-fed, and well-exercised?
Patience. A puppy may look angelic in the window, but that angel won’t hesitate to knock over your trash can and spread coffee grounds everywhere. Any pet, young or old, dog or cat, will eventually stretch your good will to the limit. Are you ready to forgive and forget?
Physical demands. There’s going to be a certain amount of stooping, lifting, and scrubbing involved in caring for the animal you choose. Are you physically able to take on some extra work, or can you make arrangements with a caregiver to help out on a regular basis?
If you decided you are ready to bring a pet into your life, there are lots of resources–both online and through local organizations–to help you prepare and make the most of your experience. When I adopted my first dog, I had not had a pet before and was a bit overwhelmed and unsure whether I could do it, especially given the challenges of living with CFS and fibromyalgia. There were definite challenges, and at times it wasn’t always easy to balance caring for her and caring for myself. But after spending a decade with my beloved Zoey (who passed away about a year ago), I can say for sure that it was worth it.