May is National Pet Month. As the owners of six (yes six!) cats we’re pet lovers at our house. We also like dogs, but I’m highly allergic, so we stick with cats, to which I’m just a little allergic. I love cats that much. We call them the pettie pets.
While it’s not always easy to have a pet in retirement, especially if you are a frequent traveler, it is well worth the effort to add one of these companions to your life. Like humans, what they really want is love and care. In return they give us love and care.
I wake every morning to a dark gray tabby named Portia greeting me with a soft “mrump mrump” as she butts my head and paws at my covers. She loves to have her hunches scratched. Then she snuggles in the crook of my arm as she purrs contentedly listening with perked ears for a certain sound from the kitchen. While this is going on Martin is letting the outdoor cats in from their night in the garage and preparing to feed everyone. The second he pops open a can of cat food, Portia leaps off the bed running to the kitchen. That’s the sound she waits for every morning.
According to Dr. Marty Becker of the American Humane Society, “Dogs and cats have broken down the walls of our hearts. There haven’t been comparable domesticated species in 5,000 years. When you’re petting them, you both get this massive release of oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine, and a decrease in cortisol. It’s a reciprocal biochemical spa treatment.” (quoted from the article on purina.com 11 Ways To Be The Best Pet Owner).
This is just one of the benefits of having a pet. I’ve known for a long time that petting a cat or dog can lower your blood pressure. Having a companion at any age that is a de-stressor is beneficial. Anyone who has been reading this blog knows I also call our cats the Zen Masters for their calm attitude and calming influence.
Since loneliness is one of the potential scourges of aging, it may be a plus to add a furry companion as we age. When I come home, the three indoor cats come out of their hiding places to welcome me. Out in the garden, the outside cats show up to laze around under a bush or soak up the sun on a path as they watch me work. In return for belly rubs and scratching under the chin (known at our house as chiny-chin) , I enjoy more head butts, kneading and purring from my loving companions.
Oftentimes, retirees miss the daily structure work provided. Owning a pet can replace some of structure you lost when you gave up your job. We’ve found it takes no time at all for our cats to adapt to a routine. And they have an internal clock that is spot on. Every morning at precisely 6:30 a.m. our diluted orange named Carmen is at the door with our wake up meow. Occasionally, she tests the waters with an earlier weak little mew. Otherwise, she knows what time to get us out of bed. They also know when it’s snack time, dinner time, time for an outside walk. Pets have our number. And our hearts.
While cats aren’t usually pets to put on a leash and take for a walk, owning a dog can help keep you in shape. If you tend to be sedentary, your dog won’t let you make excuses for staying on the couch. I’ve known dogs who got their leash between their teeth and brought it to their owner with a ‘it’s time to get up and out and walk me’ look in their eyes. Fido can be a very good exercise coach. He or she may even help you meet some people.
There are many reasons to own a pet. We never expected to have six cats _ sounds a little like having kids, but two were planned, the other four just showed up at our house. Our cats are a lot of work and an extra expense, but they are also a source of great joy. They put smiles on our faces. And that alone is a great reason to have pets.