Being Ready for Pet Ownership in Recovery

Girl with two animals.

Being Ready for Pet Ownership in Recovery

Many people find comfort in emotional support animals because of the loyalty and unconditional love they offer. Studies have shown that pets can reduce stress, loneliness, and boost your overall mood. While pet ownership has many emotional benefits, owning a pet is also a large responsibility. Before adopting a pet, it’s important to think about if you’re ready to take on the responsibility of caring for one. Consider the emotional energy that owning a pet takes and ensure that you have that energy to give before adopting a furry friend.

Spending Emotional Energy

Before you adopt a pet, think about the pros and cons. Yes, a pet may bring you emotional comfort and help you feel less lonely, but the task of caring for a pet could cancel out any emotional energy the new friend may bring you. During your recovery, you’ll want to spend your emotional energy wisely. When it comes to spending emotional energy, you should be your number one priority. If you can’t manage your own emotions, you won’t be able to care for others.

Emotional energy is important for managing triggers, traumatic memories, and toxic thoughts. Spending your emotional energy can cause physical exhaustion. If you run for too long with an empty tank, you’ll crash. Eventually, something will have to give, and you don’t want to be so emotionally spent that when your negative thoughts cause you to spiral, you’re unable to manage them. You never know when you may be facing a difficult or triggering situation, which you want to make sure you have the emotional tools to handle before committing to caring for an animal.

Knowing When You’re Ready

Some days you may find you have more emotional energy than others, but to be a responsible pet owner, you need to consistently have a reserve of emotional energy to offer. Sometimes replenishing your emotional energy will be easily solved with some self-care. Other times you may have lingering trauma that continuously drains your emotional energy and could potentially take years to work through. Take time to reflect and track your emotional energy before committing to pet ownership. It’s okay if you are not ready yet.

When you think about the emotional energy you are capable of giving a pet, you may realize you have enough emotional energy to care for some types of pets and not others. For instance, taking care of a goldfish is less emotionally exhaustive than taking care of a cat. Even the difference between taking care of an older dog and taking care of a puppy will have drastically different effects on your emotional energy.

Responsibility of Pet Ownership

Before adopting a pet, you should understand all the responsibilities caring for an animal entails. Taking care of a pet can be emotionally draining and also time-consuming, messy, and expensive. You will be responsible for comforting your pet when they experience excessive anxiety from being introduced to new places or new people. Adopting a pet may also increase your household chores. You’ll likely have to clean your home more frequently, especially if your pet sheds. Make sure that you can comfortably take care of your expenses before taking on the financial responsibility of caring for an animal because food and medical care can be expensive.

Alternative Options

If you decide that you are not ready to take care of a pet but seek the comfort of one, you can find ways to be around pets without being responsible for caring for them. For instance, you can search for cat cafes in your area or volunteer at an animal shelter. Volunteering at an animal shelter will help you learn about the responsibility of taking care of animals before committing to adopting one. 

If you are unsure if you have the emotional energy to care for an animal, you can also look into fostering. Fostering allows you to look after animals from shelters without the commitment of adoption. After spending some time taking care of a pet, you can decide if adopting one would be the right move for you.

There are also several types of farms and animal attractions that will allow you to interact with animals without committing to adopting one. For instance, petting zoos could give you a temporary relief of stress while you feed a goat or pet a pig. There are also ranches where you can be in the company of horses. If all else fails, you can always offer to pet sit for a friend.