Furry Friends

Research shows that simply petting a dog or a cat can boost feelings of wellbeing, especially in people who are sick or troubled.

Why is this? Petting an animal can reduce your stress and anxiety and introduce feelings of happiness. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital has “employed” therapy dogs for years … with success. There’s nothing like the companionship of a sweet dog or the comfort of a warm cat. But before you take a trip to a shelter to adopt a new furry friend, you may want to consider a few important factors.

Is your lifestyle pet-friendly?

Do you like to travel? Even if it’s heading out for long weekends at a nearby cottage, you will have to consider your pet. Can you bring your dog with you? Do you have a neighbor or nearby friend who can feed your cat while you’re away?

You also must consider if you work or volunteer for hours at a time. While cats are more self-sufficient (and they have an indoor bathroom), most dogs cannot last more than six or seven hours at a time without going to the bathroom.

What is your energy level?

Again, cats are much more independent and self-sufficient than dogs. But if you want the interaction and playfulness that a dog can bring to your life, you also need to have energy. Are you ready to throw a ball for your dog a few times a day, or teach him new tricks (to entertain his mind), or walk him?

Remember also that cats and most dogs shed. You will need to sweep and vacuum more often. You will also have to pick up after your dog in the yard and clean your cat’s litter pan.

Allergies?

Sometimes people can develop allergies later in life. Before you adopt a dog or cat, it might be best to test out any allergic reactions. You can do this by going to an allergist. Or you could visit a shelter. Play with a cat or dog, snuggle them – then see how you feel.

Cost of care

In addition to food and treats, animals require other items. For a dog, you will need a collar, a leash and toys to keep her entertained. Additionally, your dog will require vaccinations and yearly checkups with a veterinarian. Cats also require toys, litter and a pan, vaccinations and checkups. You will also want to make sure you have the means to cover unexpected costs such as surgery or treatment for illness. Pet insurance is now popular and available at a reasonable cost to help cover expensive but necessary surgeries or treatments.

Adult vs. puppy or kitten?

Puppies and kittens are two of the cutest things in the world. But are you prepared to handle all of that energy? Puppies also require potty-training and usually need a crate to help keep them safe when you are out. Kittens can be very destructive with their claws.

If you don’t think you’re prepared to handle the “baby” stage of pet ownership, there are many wonderful adult dogs and cats that need homes. This is also a way to limit the time you have your pet. Depending on their size, dogs can live between 10 and 16 years. Cats can live up to 20 years (or longer).

Fall risk

Any cat or dog can be a fall risk for you due to tripping over them. They like to sit at your feet, whether you are on the couch or standing at the counter brushing your teeth. Walking around the house at night is another prime time for fall risk.

If you get a furry friend, keep your house well lit (including nightlights) so that you can clearly see where he or she is. And remember to look down before you take a step!

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