Looking for Love in Retirement: Pets Are the Perfect Companions

January 20, 2017  

There can never be a better companion than a good pet. Let me share with you some tributes from other authors more eloquent than I:

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened

Anatole France – Writer and Nobel Prize Winner

A house is not a home without a pet

Unknown Author

Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.

George Eliot – 19th Century English Writer

It often happens that a man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being.

Henry David Thoreau – 19th Century Author, Poet, and Philosopher

I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.

Gilda Radner – Comedian

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours faithful and true to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of his devotion.

Author Unknown

Pets are faithful companions, family members just like any human, and in some cases, soul-mates. In a survey by Petfinder.com, about 90% of respondents considered their pet to be an important member of the family. What better companion to bring into your life as you enter retirement. If you live alone, they can be companions that provide unconditional love and reduce your loneliness. If you are an empty nester, a dog or cat can fill the void of children who have moved on to their adult lives. If you are an older couple, they can be an additional bond that brings you together.

The benefits of pet ownership has been well documented and in retirement, the benefits can be even greater. Let me list some of these:

Psychological Benefits – Pets Can Make You Happier

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers looked at variables such as self-esteem, loneliness, illness, and depression. Pet owners did better than non-owners on most measures including less loneliness, greater self-esteem, and better relationships with others. Other research has shown that interactions with pets can reduce stress levels significantly.

Retirement is a time of life when issues related to loneliness and depression can be particularly problematic. These studies suggest that owning a pet can reduce these problems substantially particularly among people living alone.

Health Benefits – Pets Can Make You Healthier

Research has documented several health benefits of pet ownership. For example, one Australian study found that people with pets had lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol compared to people who did not own pets. Both of these are symptomatic of stress. So, this goes hand-in-hand with the psychological benefits. Another study followed heart attack victims and found that pet owners who had suffered a heart attack had a higher survival rate one year later than those without pets. Several studies have concluded that pet owners are more physically fit, probably a side benefit of exercising their pets.

Selecting the Perfect Pet for You

So if I have convinced you, the first question you need to ask is what kind of pet you want to adopt. Are you a dog person or a cat person or someone else? As Winston Churchill once quipped: “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” Dogs and cats definitely have personality differences, but I believe that you can appreciate both.

Most cities with any size have Humane Society shelters as well as others that take in homeless pets. You can find these facilities on-line and then visit the shelter to find an adoption. The only problem I have ever had in one of these shelter is that I find myself wanting to adopt them all, but it is a great experience.

If you are not sure what breed of dog would work for you, there are several websites that will allow you to input your personal situation and will recommend a breed. For example, Animal Planet has a website where you answer ten questions about the kinds of characteristics you want in a pet such as size, energy level, your availability to exercise your pet, compatibility with other dogs or cats in the household, etc. Specific breeds are recommended. This dog breed selector can be found at:

animal.discovery.com/breed-selector/dog-breeds.html

Just be aware that they are usually recommending pure breeds and you may be fine with a “mutt.” If you want a pure breed, you will probably need to go on-line to find a breeder specializing in that kind of dog. Also, adoptions from breeders will be considerably more expensive than what you could expect from a shelter. These breed selector websites will help you hone in on the perfect breed for you.

Believe it or not, there are also cat breed selectors as well. Find this at:

animal.discovery.com/breedselector/catselectorindex.do

Pets provide companionship and unconditional love. For a person entering retirement, finding yourself a four-legged companion maybe one of the best things you can do for yourself. You can as provide a loving animal a home. Pets provide you both psychological and health benefits and can fill a spot in your life like nothing or nobody else.