Q: I have been feeling lonely and was considering getting a pet to keep me company. Do you have any recommendations before I make my decision?

A: Pets can make wonderful companions and are known to help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. You can talk to your pet out load without feeling like you are talking just to yourself! You can give of your love and affection to a pet and get back those feelings in return.

Welcoming a new pet into your home is a big commitment, and you want to make sure you chose the correct pet and have a plan to care for them in the long term. Getting a pet should not be an impulsive decision.

Consider your lifestyle and how a pet will fit into it. Are you active and able to commit to a dog that requires multiple walks a day? Or do you prefer a pet to sit quietly in your lap and not require walks? Will a cat be a good fit in your home, or do you have allergies? Does your home allow pets, or will you be required to register your pet with your apartment and put down a pet deposit?

When you have a pet, you are responsible for their health and wellbeing. You must consider the costs of caring for that pet. The costs include ongoing food, toys, grooming, bedding or cages, as well as any future veterinarian visits that may be needed.

If you often spend long days away from home or travel for any length of time, then be sure to have a plan for who will watch your pet in your absence. Also consider if your living situation might change in the near future and how that may affect your pet decision.

Make sure your home is safe for both the pet and for you If you are considering a pet that does not live in a cage, such as a dog or cat. You do not want to introduce a new pet who may become a dangerous trip hazard to you or someone else in your home.

Once you have thought through your pet choice consider adopting from a local shelter or rescue group. Each year, millions of animals end up in shelters and need a good home. Shelters often have cats, dogs, birds and other small pets available to adopt. While most people think of a cat or a dog, there are many other small pets that may end up being a good fit for you.

During COVID times the quietness of being at home can feel overwhelming. While adopting a pet is a decision not to take lightly, the companionship and joy from having a pet is truly life changing. One woman told me that having a dog to talk to after her husband passed away was lifesaving for her.

If having your own pet feels like too big of a commitment, consider volunteering at an animal shelter or rescue, or offering to walk a friend’s dog. This will still allow you the joy of being around pets without all the responsibility. It is wonderful that you are looking to find ways to ease your loneliness and add joy and love to your day with a pet.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org

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