Pet or not?
You have just retired from work. At last you have some free time to holiday, to sleep in, to do whatever you want. No children to wake you up, no boss with demanding deadlines, no alarm clock. Bliss!
Then a little voice inside your head suggests that it might be a good time to get a pet. Or perhaps, rather than from within, the voice and suggestion belong to your spouse or partner.
“Now you have more time of your hands, a pet would be a good idea!”
Is it a good time to have a pet?
Only you can and should decide when the time is right for a pet. Your children or neighbours may see you at home and think you have too much time on your hands and think that a pet would be a good idea. They do not have to live with, walk, feed and pay the vet bills. You do.
Your retirement can bring the loss of a role in life, however, and a pet can, in many cases, adequately fill that vacancy. Walking the dog every day, or playing with a kitten can keep you busy and stop you feeling lonely.
If in doubt, give yourself a little more time to make a decision. Never rush into pet ownership. Research what type of pet you would like, what age and where you will acquire that pet.
How will a pet benefit my life?
Having a pet means that you will stay active. Dogs need to be walked. Cats need cuddles and every pet needs to be fed on a regular basis. This means that you keep moving.
Owning a pet means that you have something to keep you amused and, often, someone to talk to. Living alone or perhaps having a partner who is still working, means you may spend periods of time alone. The advantage of a pet is that they will listen to every word you say. You can even sing to them and they will listen adoringly!
Pets are a catalyst for conversation and neighbours will often talk to one another about their pets. Similarly in local parks, people talk about their dogs.
In addition to these daily benefits, pets also help you stay healthy. Reduced risk of cardio-vascular disease, reduced stress, improved psychological health and less visits to the doctor are just some of the physiological benefits of pet ownership.
But pets are hard work!
Pets are hard work at times. They need care and this can be expensive, which is why the decision to own a pet cannot be taken lightly.
You may be considering downsizing and moving to an apartment can make pet ownership more tricky, although many apartment blocks are now acknowledging that pets are not the villains they once considered them to be. Pets even increase the value of the home!
You may be considering a nomadic lifestyle, touring the country and enjoying your retirement years. A pet may offer companionship on your travels. They may also be a costly holiday expense to leave at home so, again, be prepared.
What about your future?
People often worry about what will happen to their pet should they die before their animals. It is possible to request arrangements for your pet in your will. Shelters can look after your pet until the end of its natural life, if you leave a donation for their care. Often family is more than happy to look after your pet. Knowing this often makes it easier for seniors to accept a companion animal into their lives.
I’d like a pet, what next?
Do your research. Choose your pet carefully and consider their needs and welfare in your care. Here are some tips to help you choose and live a long, fulfilled life together with your furry, feathered or finned family member:
- Choose a species of pet that you are familiar with for ease of care. If you select one that you have never owned but always wanted, make sure you do your homework and that it is the best pet for you.
- Choose the best breed for your lifestyle. Don’t acquire a working dog breed (eg. Border Collie, Kelpie), for instance, unless you are an experienced dog trainer and plan to work with that dog every day. Instead try a quieter toy breed or a less active cat.
- Senior pets in shelters are always looking for homes. This may be the perfect time to give these pets their chance at a home life.
- Use your time to be active with your pet. Dog training or gardening with your cat can be extremely enjoyable pursuits in retirement.
- If you need help with your pet, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your pet’s needs matter and so do yours.
Did you decide to acquire a pet when you retired? Or decide against it? Share your pet ownership experience at this stage of life.