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Health & Wellness

6 Ways to Spend Time with Pets - Even if You Don't Own One

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Pets have a way of bringing their human companions boundless joy, along with opportunities for exercise, an escape from loneliness, and so much more.

But not everyone wants to own pet. For one thing, they’re expensive. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a pet owner will spend, on average, between $1,400 and $2,000 caring for a dog the first year and just under $1,200 caring for a cat. And, as any pet owner knows, pets require commitment, attention, and careful planning to ensure they’re looked after when you travel. For many animal lovers, that’s too much responsibility.

But when it comes to pets, you don’t have to own one to benefit from the sweet face licks, the warm lap cuddles, the soulful gazes. Whether you’re fostering, pet sitting, or visiting a cat café, there are a number of ways for pet lovers to get their pet fill, without the responsibility or expense. Here are some ideas.

  1. Sign up to be a foster. Find out if your local animal shelter needs foster owners and apply to become one. Different shelters have different fostering programs, but many of them will ask for help in caring for animals that are too young to be adopted; sick or injured animals that need a peaceful place to heal; animals that have demonstrated problems with socializing; and pets that need a place to stay in the event that a shelter becomes overcrowded. Because you’re fostering, the shelter that owns the animal will usually pay for food and veterinary care, so you don’t have to worry about the cost. What you do have to worry about, of course, is falling in love with that animal and becoming what’s known in the industry as a “foster failure,” or someone who winds up adopting the dog or cat, after all.
  2. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Not ready for the commitment of becoming a foster? Find out if you can lend a helping hand at your town’s animal shelter. Before you know it, you could be walking dogs, snuggling cats, and meeting other like-minded animal lovers.
  3. Become a pet sitter. Maybe you don’t want to spend money on adopting a dog or cat. But what if you could make a few bucks playing with someone else’s creature? A number of websites allow you to post a profile, set your own rates, and find pet-sitting jobs in your area. Or you can approach it the old-fashioned way, and let friends know you’re available to care for their pets when they leave town. With a little effort, you could be in business.
  4. Become a dog walker. Imagine walking miles a day with a few precious pups, and getting paid for the privilege! Dog walkers are incredibly important to busy pet owners. To become one, you could post your profile on an existing dog-walking service site, apply to join a local agency, or start your own business by offering your services to friends and family.
  5. Head to your nearest cat café. For years, cat cafés have been all the rage in Asia and Europe. There, patrons sip coffee and get their feline fix, petting the cats or tossing a toy around with them. More recently, cat cafés are becoming popular in the United States. Some are connected to shelters and the cats can be adopted, while others simply have resident cats that double as entertainment. Find out if a city near you has a cat café and plan a visit.
  6. Visit your local dog park. Miss the energy that Fido and Fifi always had? Head to your neighborhood dog park and get to know the local personalities. Who knows? If you’re thinking of starting a dog-walking or pet-sitting business, you may meet your first clients here.

Dogs, cats, and other pets can offer an escape from day-to-day stresses. Tossing a ball, talking to them, or having a quick snuggle can bring great joy – whether you’re the owner, or simply a temporary observer.   

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