The Single Life: My Furry Valentine
- Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 10 Feb
In this season of "wuv, twoo wuv" (thank you, Princess Bride) I want to give a shout out to the two males who share my life, my home, and my bed. Charlie and Henry, this one's for you. Thanks for being there for me. (Of course, since I never let you outside, you don't have much choice, do you?)
Lest you think this column is about to go off the rails in a seriously disturbing way, I hasten to explain that Charlie and Henry are my cats. Yes, I am that stereotypical cat-loving spinster. It's OK. I made my peace with that distinction long ago.
Besides, I'm not alone in my affections. According to a recent Associated Press poll, a quarter of all unmarried pet owners would choose their pet over their significant other. I wonder if that's just a sign the pet is more significant than the other?
Pets can give you a reason to get up in the morning, someone to talk to, and someone to love. They can provide a topic of conversation and a way to meet other people. Gentleman, I'm just going to say it: the right pet can be a chick magnet. (Come on girls, you know it's true.) However, for both your sake and the pet's, please don't pick one strictly for that reason. You may both live to regret it.
Pets are Good for Your Health
I'm serious; actual scientists study this stuff and they have the data to prove it. No less than the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that pet ownership can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. Some researchers suggest holding a purring cat on a broken bone will help it heal faster; apparently the frequency of the purr increases bone density.
A study from University of Buffalo in New York found that stockbrokers—a high-stress job if ever there was one—who cared for a pet had significantly lower blood pressure than those without pets. "When we told the group that didn't have pets about the findings, many went out and got [pets]," says researcher Karen Allen. "This study shows that if you have high blood pressure, a pet is very good for you when you're under stress, and pet ownership is especially good for you if you have a limited support system."
Choosing the Right Pet
Suppose you're ready to follow the stockbrokers' lead and welcome a pet into your life. How do you choose your new companion?
First, think it through: pet equals commitment. Pets can live a long time; ten to twenty years for a dog or cat, thirty-plus years for some birds . . . and don't koi fish live to be something like seventy? You'll want to be sure you're up for that kind of commitment before you fall in love with a furry or finny face.
Assuming you're ready to take the plunge, think about your lifestyle and what type of pet fits it best. Will your schedule allow you to take a dog out on a regular basis? Can you put up with a cat's aloofness? Are you more comfortable with critters that stay put, like fish or guinea pigs? How much mess are you willing to tolerate? These are all things to consider. The ASPCA has a great list of pros and cons about the most popular pets that may help your decision; you'll find it and other resources at the end of this article.
Where to Find Fido
Once you've determined that your life will not be complete without, say, a really big lizard, where do you go to find it? You have several options:
Pet Store: the easiest and possibly most obvious solution. However, this may not be your best move. Sadly, many pet store puppies are from "puppy mills." Even if you luck out with a great pet, do you want to support inhumane breeding practices? Proceed with caution or try a. . .
Reputable Breeder: while they can be pricey (though often on a par with pet stores), you're more likely to get exactly what you want. Be prepared for a list of questions and commitments, but that's a good thing. It means the breeder will go the extra mile to make sure their critters find good homes. On the other hand, if you're not set on a baby whatever, check out a . . .
Rescue Organization: Almost every type of creature, it seems, has a group devoted to its rescue, rehabilitation, and placement in a new home. I have several friends who have gone this route, and if you're set on a particular breed it's a great way to go. If you're not that picky, try your local . . .
Animal Shelter: What could be more noble than saving a pet from "death row"? Many wonderful animals end up in shelters through no fault of their own. It's one of the least expensive options and you could wind up with a new best friend. Then again, you might find your new furry valentine at the home of . . .
Friends and Family: A few years ago a co-worker showed up in a state of mild shock. "I thought Sammy was just getting fat, but when I picked him up this morning I realized: he's pregnant!" Once the laughter died down, people started reserving kittens. We knew Sammy was a sweetheart and felt comfortable adopting one of his…er, her offspring. We were right. When the time came I went to her place, sat on the floor with the two orange, tail-free boy kittens, and asked, "OK, who wants to be Henry?" My little guy came over and sat on my lap—and he's been there ever since.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Adopting:
The Right Pet for You:
The Benefits of Pets:
Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.
**This column first published on February 10, 2011.