I was researching a blog on Elder Care when my cat jumped on the couch to drink from her cup. She has to have her own or she’ll drink out of mine. I knew writing about Elder Care wasn’t what I wanted to do on a beautiful day on the bay. After my cat had her drink she left without any questions or requests so I could get on with my writing. Would I have liked her to sit by me just for company? Sure, if she didn’t want to sit on my warm laptop while I was trying to write. Is having her in my life the same as having a spouse? No, but she gives me affection and attention without asking for much in return. That may sound selfish but as we age we sometimes find we want to simplify our lives and spending time with a pet can be very rewarding for a number of reasons. You may not agree with them all, but maybe a few will give you laugh.
- Pets can help you feel more connected. A recent study at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University found that young people who had “strong attachment to pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships.” According to survey results, it also made them more empathetic and confident. It follows that this would apply to all ages and enhances all of your relationships whereas being married often isolates people who spend more time with their spouse than with others out in their community.
- Pets can keep you healthy. We all know the benefits of walking a dog but research has shown that owning a pet can also boost physical and mental health. A 2011 study in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology”, showed that “pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences than non-owners on several dimensions,” According to researcher, Miami University’s Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D., “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.” Research often claims married people live longer healthier life, but in truth never marrieds have a longer life expectancy according to Bella DePaulo, PhD. an expert on singles.
- Just looking at your pet can make you feel happier. A 2009 study by Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan found that one’s level of oxytocin (the neurohormone that elicits feelings of happiness) spiked after interacting with their dog even if they only stared into their dog’s eyes. I know petting my cat makes me feel relaxed and just seeing my friend’s dog, Joy, makes me understand why she named her that. Your spouse can raise your oxytocin levels too but rarely does a pet cause you the pain a person can trigger with just a disgusted look.
- Pets can help you recover from a psychological crisis. Support animals have been used to help soldiers with PTSD recover from the horrors and pain they endured on the battlefield. Many other animals have been found to help their owners in similar ways with just their presence. Animals trained to be Support Animals don’t lose their temper in a crowd or demand your attention when you might need to time for yourself to sort out your life. They may not have a shoulder to lean on like a spouse but they can give you unconditional love and support whenever you need it just by always being there.
- Jealousy isn’t a problem. She may sniff me when I get home, but my cat doesn’t care that I’ve been petting other cats or even a dog. Other animals aren’t considered a threat to your relationship with your pet like other men or women with whom you might get romantically involved or just want as friends can be to your marriage. Pets often let other animals share their home but few spouses would agree to that even if you wanted another one.
- They don’t care if you leave them home when you travel. A pet may care until the pet sitter comes to feed and pet them but it’s not like leaving a spouse on their own. There’s no silent treatment because they have to stay home. Pets like to be home and aren’t worried if you’re having fun with someone else. I do feel guilty at times but my pet is always happy to see me and doesn’t make me feel like I deserted her to enjoy myself while I go off alone or with my friends. Some animals show their displeasure by making a mess while you’re gone but it’s a rare male spouse who cleans up after himself and few women don’t ask what you did when you were traveling without her. You never have to explain anything to a pet.
I only want the ears.
- Pets don’t care about what’s for dinner. As long as she has food in her dish and a few treats on the side, my cat is happy. She doesn’t care that it’s the same flavor every day or if it’s served at the perfect temperature and matched with the appropriate wine. There’s no need to mix it up with a new recipe or take her out to eat. She’s perfectly happy with whatever I choose to feed her and seldom begs for anything I eat so I don’t mind sharing every now and then. If you’re the cook, can you say your spouse will accept this arrangement?
- You’re usually the one in control. Now it’s been said cats don’t have owners they have staff but any well-trained pet is controllable. People on the other hand fight to be the one in charge and resent you if you try. You can always take a dog to obedience school but the only thing close for people is couples therapy and you can’t physically drag a spouse there. Pets also don’t want control the TV remote.
- They can protect you. Your spouse can deter a mugger or burglar by their presence but well-trained pets are less expensive and don’t have the same sense of self-preservation. Their first choice is usually to fight when their owner is threatened. If you walk your dog in the park, it’s less likely you’ll be attacked. A pet has excellent hearing and can hear sounds you might not, especially if you’re asleep. They also have teeth and claws and aren’t afraid to use them to protect their families. Their sensitive noses have been known to sense smoke and gas fumes before their humans and save lives. They’ve even towed drowning people to shore.
- Pets don’t take your covers in bed. Now it can be argued that even a small pet who sprawls out in your bed can take up more space than its share, but they rarely take the covers and their snoring is usually not that loud. It’s a lot easier to toss them out of your bedroom than to do the same with a spouse. Pets may not like it but they’ll forget about it in the morning when you feed or pet them. Spouses aren’t so forgiving.
I know I’ll probably be accused of being cynical when it comes to relationships but I’m not a lonely single Baby Boomer living with a cat who will be found dead and gnawed on by my cat. There are times when a pet can’t give a person the love they crave. However, a pet will always love you no matter how you look or feel. That’s not always easy to find in a spouse. If you’ve found that special partner, you may have won the relationship lottery. For the rest of us who have either chosen to live alone or live that way through no choice of our own, there are our sweet, lovable pets.
If you have a picture of your special pets, please post it here or on my Facebook page, Single Boomer Life, so we can all enjoy it.
Continue the adventure!