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Health Benefits and Costs of Owning a Pet

Pet-O-Nomics 101: A Closer Look at the Costs and Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Many homes choose to take on the blessings of pet ownership.  Pets often fulfill the desire for companionship and can also indirectly connect pet owners with each other.  They can be used for rehabilitation, service animals for the disabled, as emotional support animals, as the ultimate ice-breaker during social situations or simply becoming a new best friend.

That being said, pet ownership also carries its own set of responsibilities for both current and aspiring humans – they require time, attention and money…although to some of us, time is money!  For those who want more information about the actual costs of pet ownership, look no further than this article.

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Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

Pets are interesting because they have been shown to reduce stress for people simply by their presence. Most families choose to raise animals as adorable members of their household, but many own pets for health-related reasons.

Pets and Physical Activity

For example, service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals can be found in all parts of the world. As a dog owner, you will likely become more physically active. Going on walks, runs, meeting other owners at your local dog park or even attending training classes all work together to shape your new family’s experience.

Dogs owners have been shown, by a study conducted at Michigan State University, to fit in about 150 minutes of walking around on a weekly basis than those who do not own dogs, by a margin of 34 percent. Another interesting finding resulting from the study was that even the leisure time physical activities were different with dogs, they were increased by 69 percent.

Pet Ownership and Chronic Disease Prevention

Owning a pet, such as a dog, has been shown to have an effect in chronic disease prevention as well. Maintaining regular physical activity with your pet and the reduced stress levels that come along with pet ownership contribute to the risk of getting diabetes for example to only one-third to those of non-dog owners.

Another interesting study performed by the researchers at the College of Medicine – University of Cincinnati, showed that children who grew up with dogs, even if their families had a history of allergies, are less likely to be affected by asthma and eczema. Basically, because animals are a little more messy or dirty than humans, it exposes the kids to dirt and germs early on and builds up their immunity. Very important when it comes to allergies as well as autoimmune diseases in childhood.

Mental Health and Social Relationships

Being by oneself for too long can affect the way we interact with our fellow human beings. On the other hand, having a best friend in the form of a pet to socialize with can help keep our minds active and social, so that we can be better people to those around us. Not only do some pets cause us to get out there and meet other pet owners in person, but through internet forums as well, when seeking for answers, we are almost forced to socialize with others, in the best way!

People with certain conditions have been shown to perform better when an emotional support animal was introduced to their lives. People suffering from anxiety, depression, various phobias, PTSD, mood disorders, personality disorders, and other, haven been shown to have their quality of life improved with an emotional support animal; not to mention the service animals who help out  people with physical disabilities on a daily basis!

The Overlooked Health Benefit

What you won’t see or realize at first, however, is the money you will save by owning a pet and staying physically and mentally active. The medical costs you are avoiding by ensuring your health and temperament are being nurtured by the lifestyle your pet introduces you to. We stress this as an unseen saving / benefit, as it is so often easy to forget and disregard.

Life with a pet will undoubtedly be different but almost always in a good way!

What Kinds of Pets Are There?

Pets come in all shapes and sizes. Some common household pets include dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, small birds, cockatoos, and rabbits so basically furry, cuddly, colorful, cute, interesting and goofy! That being said, every household will have its own requirements but some general information is provided below for each type.

The purpose here is to increase your knowledge, rather than make specific pet suggestions. Keeping in mind that every breed has its own qualities, try to do as much research on your own as you can before making that final a decision. This may mean contacting a breeder, a trainer, or even a local animal rescue for more information on the lifespan, temperament and potential health issues specific to your desired pet.

In the United States alone, the most common household pets are dogs and cats. Dogs are typically categorized as small, medium or large. Smaller breeds (e.g. Yorkshire Terriers, Pugs) grow up to be less than 20 pounds, while large dog breeds (e.g. Great Danes, Mastiffs) can grow to become more than 100 pounds! Cats, on the other hand, rarely have ideal weights over 20 pounds. In fact, most domestic cats only grow up to be roughly 10 pounds.

Smaller caged mammals such as guinea pigs and rabbits are also commonly kept as pets. Both grow to be adults weighing about 5 pounds. While guinea pigs generally live for about five years, rabbits, on the other hand, have a much longer lifespan – on average reaching ten years of age! This often throws off new owners expecting to raise their pet for only a few years…all things to consider people!

With an average lifespan of ten years, fish and small birds can live almost as long as a cat or dog. Larger birds frequently survive for multiple decades.  Believe it or not, cockatoos have an average lifespan of 50 years!

Choosing a Pet on a Budget

Maybe you haven’t quite decided on a specific type of pet but you’ve narrowed it down to a few. When deciding on that new addition to your family, remember that pets cost money.  Even pets received as gifts will involve lifetime costs. Expect to spend hundreds of dollars a year on things such as food, grooming and medical costs.

Of the aforementioned animals, the least expensive ones are small birds and fish. While there will always be exceptions, neither of these two can be generally associated with lifetime costs of over $1,500. Because both animals don’t require much in regards to food or grooming, their maintenance costs stay VERY low.

Fish are quiet, soothing to look at and don’t require exercise. If you choose to go the Nemo route, make sure to do your research with regards to the size of his tank. While fish are sometimes portrayed to live in a charming little glass bowl, that doesn’t really reflect a suitable size for living. Seek out information concerning the suggested aquarium sizes for any fish you choose to bring into your family.

Small birds, such as cockatiels, are similarly exceptional pets for those on a budget. They are easy to maintain, are more expressive than fish, and appreciate friendly socializing. Since there are so many species available, look for birds that will match your level of activity and enthusiasm for interaction. Animals form friendships just like humans so arrange a mutually supportive connection..you’ll be happy you did!

Adopting & Fostering a Dog or Cat

Like humans, animals can have tough lives. As a result, some may require a new or temporary home.  If you’d like to be a dog or car owner, additional options to consider are adopting or fostering an animal. If fostering, costs are normally lower than buying from a breeder or pet store because you would only be taking care of the pet for a portion of its life rather than its entirety. Before choosing to adopt or foster a pet, know the difference between the two and what it means for your household.

Adopting a Pet

Means taking on ownership of a pet that, for whatever reason, no longer has a human in its life. If you adopt, know that you should be prepared to take on the responsibility for the rest of his/her lucky life. Older animals that are up for adoption will almost always be up-to-date on their shots so you would be saving money there.

In addition, there is also the chance that the animal will already be spayed or neutered. Like adopting a child, adopting your new furry friend comes with many requirements. The review process very commonly considers your age, family situation and availability for the animal. Just like with any other form of pet ownership, you should be prepared to accept the costs of all necessary care, training and medical assistance.

Fostering a Pet

Means temporarily taking on the role of its owner. Those already associated with an animal rescue organization will more readily be accepted as foster pet owners. The responsibilities of fostering a pet are more manageable for experienced pet owners because they can include the training and medical appointment required of young pets (puppies and kittens often end up as foster pets).

However, fostering a pet is a great choice for those who desire to make a positive impact on the life of an unlucky animal and, let’s face it, there’s a good chance that you’ll be wondering who rescued who!

Consider the Costs

The costs of owning a pet are often underestimated and sadly, when pets are no longer properly cared for by their owners, they’re the ones that must endure the hardship and pain so DON’T be a pet owner that failed to consider the costs.

Unfortunately, that’s often the reason that pets end up in the animal shelter or foster care. Knowing the difference between the initial and recurring costs of pet ownership will definitely help you.

Initial Costs

Think of initial costs, or upfront costs of pet ownership, as something you will incur only during the first year of owning your new friend. These costs can include spaying/neutering and living space arrangements such as beds, cages, crates, carriers, and aquariums.

These costs can exceed $400 yet only make up a small portion of the lifetime costs. Families considering pet ownership for assistance with disabilities should also include the costs of training, licensing, and outfitting their pet with items like a service dog vest or emotional support animal vest.

Recurring Costs

More important to the big picture will be recurring costs.  Food, medical expenses, grooming, license registrations (and renewals), and toys all cost money. Mammalian pets…as in dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs…are more expensive to raise as expenditures will usually be between $500 and $1,000 per year.

Anticipate variation even within these numbers as elderly pets naturally require more medical attention. That being said, recurring costs of all types will grow with the lifespan of your pet. A cockatoo that only costs you $300/year will still set you back $15,000 over the course of its 50-year life!

What is Life With a Pet Really Worth?

Pet and His Happy Human

Ultimately, it’s all about enjoying life with your pet! Can you really put a price on your puppy waiting to lick you as soon as you come home? The physical activities  you will be inspired to do with them and thus help your overall well being. Can anything truly replace your kitty being there to cuddle and purr with you after you’ve had a rough week?

Granted, the more information you have when making your decision, the more likely you’ll be happy with the results. Yes, pet ownership can be expensive, so prepare yourself to take on the costs and if you have financial constraints, remember that there are budget pet breed options like fish and small birds.

Also, don’t forget that many pets are in need of homes and adopting or fostering them can be a good alternative for both you and the pet. But in terms of what you will get back for the time and money spent for an animal, there’s a great chance that you will be paid back in multiples through a lifetime of memories and happiness!

Another great read: Exercise and Stress – How One Beats the Other

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