Studies have shown that time spent with pets can lower your blood pressure; decrease feelings of loneliness, increase social contact, as well as help maintain an active lifestyle with healthier cholesterol and triglyceride levels. What’s more, you don’t have to own a pet to benefit, you can also consider fostering, volunteering, or just visiting!
Four Ways to Spend Time with Pets
- Adopt: If you are ready to bring a new pet into your home for good, visit Petfinder.com or AdoptaPet.com to search for available pets in your area by type and age. Millions of wonderful pets of all shapes and sizes are awaiting homes. To determine the type of pet that may be a good fit for you, read “What’s the Best Pet for You?”
- Foster: Not ready to make a forever commitment? Consider fostering. Many shelters and rescue groups rely on foster homes to take care of a pet until he or she is adopted. The group usually provides food, toys, equipment, and covers medical expenses, so the only commitment needed from you is time and love. A foster pet may get adopted quickly, or may live with you for several months. You can tell the organization the temperament (i.e. older and calmer or more energetic) that’s a good fit for you.
- Volunteer: Shelters and rescue groups also need volunteers. Volunteers can walk dogs, visit and pet the animals, help at adoption events and more. Therapeutic horseback riding facilities also need volunteers. Contact organizations in your area to see what’s needed and to find the right fit for you.
- Visit: Therapy dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and other locations. Visit AARP’s Animal-Assisted Therapy page to learn more. If you’re not likely to encounter a therapy animal and don’t have a pet of your own, you can get similar benefits from visiting with the pets of friends or relatives!
“My pets and my daughters’ pets give me great joy and much comfort – petting them, looking into their eyes and watching their silly antics,” comments Anne Hanley. “The dogs all help me exercise. They bring smiles and laughter on a daily basis. Even when I clean up after them, I’m using a set of muscles I might not otherwise use.”
“A few months ago, I adopted Lucie, an adorable tuxedo cat, from our local shelter, and she has been so wonderful,” Michelle Demers shares. “She makes me laugh often, which seems so important to good health. I tell her often: I love Lucie!”
“We have a 12-year-old Italian Greyhound, Shadow,” adds Sandra Giedeman. “He came to us when he was 7, and he’s become an integral part of our household, always available for hugs, wet kisses or cuddling. … I cannot believe how attached we’ve become to him.”
Science aside, pet lovers seem to know that being around pets makes them feel good.
Whatever your situation, if you enjoy the companionship of animals, there are many ways to have a pet enrich your life. Something as simple as walking a dog, or petting a cat can be good for your health, rewarding, and fun.
27 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health – WebMD.com
In Search of a Forever Home – AARP.org
Health Benefits of Pets – CDC.gov