If you know me, you know I like to talk about pet adoption. A lot. Ad nauseum. Like, always. And it’s a bit much, I realize. Even my closest friends tend to go glassy-eyed these days as soon as I start shifting the conversation petward. I’m sure my statuses have been hidden more than a few times by my Facebook friends. (If you’re one of them, please unhide me. I miss being seen by you. Plus, I have this great post today about a pit bull who bonded with a Chihuahua in the shelter. I think those guys would look great in your living room.) Today, I’m turning the topic on its ear. Yes, adopted pets are wonderful. Yes, acquiring a pet from a shelter is the right thing to do. However, I’m here today to admit that there’s a dark side to adopting a pet. Here, my friends, are the downsides of pet adoption:
1. That doctor you’re secretly crushing on? You’ll probably see him or her a lot less often. And think of all those wasted insurance premiums!
Here’s the problem: pets improve your health in so many ways that your trips to see Dr. Eyes-That-See-Into-Your-Soul may be limited to yearly checkups. Recent studies show that pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rates, and lower levels of cholesterol than non-pet-owners. Just a few weeks ago, in fact, the American Heart Association released a study that found that pet ownership can vastly decrease a person’s risk of heart disease. Back in 2008, the American Stroke Association found that cat owners have fewer strokes than non-cat-owners. In fact, people who have never “owned” a cat have a 30% higher risk of dying from a stroke, and a 40% higher risk of dying from a heart attack, than those who have “owned” a cat (You cat managers out there will understand the quotation marks).
And if you’re just going to be healthy as a result of sharing your life with a companion animal, you’re throwing that health insurance money down the toilet. Might as well burn it, as my mom would say. She’d also say she never said that. Mom, you totally did. But I digress…
2. You’ll need more retirement savings.
Yes, you’d better contribute the max toward your 401k. With all those health benefits, you’re probably going to live longer than your sad, pet-less friends.
3. Au revoir, la mélancolie. And Prozac.
Victor Hugo wrote, “”La mélancolie, c’est le bonheur d’être triste.” Translation? Melancholy is the happiness at being sad. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about: sometimes you just want to stare out over the ocean, conspicuously alone, your green eyes showing deep sadness and, at the same time, a steely resolve to rise above. You sigh, lost in the romance of it all. The pink light of an early sunset highlights your cheekbones, while the soft breeze lifts your bouncy red curls. Oh, wait. That’s my fantasy. Anyway, I know you have your own version. Yeah…good luck with that if you adopt a pet. Kiss that depression, romantic or otherwise, goodbye.
Numerous studies have shown that both dogs and cats significantly lower the severity of depression in even the most clinically depressed people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that the companionship of animals can help manage anxiety and depression. There are numerous charities that pair depressed persons with companion animals. Organizations like Pet Partners train people and their pets to become therapy teams, visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Being in the presence of an animal lifts the spirits. Taking responsibility for a pet’s welfare forces you to get out of bed in the morning, even if all you feel like doing is moaning in between bites of the leftover pizza from the box you accidentally used as a pillow last night. Touching an animal, whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit, horse, bird, ferret or otherwise, soothes the soul in a way that’s nearly indescribable. When you come home to a pet, you never feel alone. And who wants that?
4. You might not get to try all those nifty fad diets all your friends are always going on about.
Your dog isn’t going to walk himself, you know? So you’re going to end up going on two or three good walks a day. Plus, who can resist taking a long weekend hike or a trail run with their dog as a workout partner? Studies show pet owners are more active than those couch potatoes without pets. In fact, one study from Michigan State University found that people who regularly walk their dogs were 34% more likely to be getting federally-recommended amounts of exercise each week.
On top of that, if you consider all the stress-lowering benefits of pet ownership, you can kiss those late-night emotional-eating binges goodbye.
More exercise + less stress = skinny jeans without the juice fasting. You’ll have to sit out those conversations about stomach stapling vs. the Morning Banana Diet.
5. Your social calendar is always full.
So, you’ll be healthy, and you’ll be happy, and you’ll be active. What does that lead to? Friends, of course. You’ll be out and about, walking your dog in the neighborhood, meeting your neighbors who are out walking their dogs. You’ll instantly connect to strangers at the dog park; after all, you have something in common: you LOVE your dogs. Soon, you’ll have friends all over the place. No more anonymity: guess you’ll have to put a little makeup on before you leave for your morning jog with your best friend.
Okay, you’ve been warned. Adopt a pet, and you’ll be healthier, happier, more active, and more social than you would be otherwise. If you can handle those consequences, go for it!