If you grew up on a steady diet of Reader’s Digest at the doctor’s waiting room and in your grandparents' house, you already know the stories of how having pets can lower blood pressure and stress, give meaning to the elderly, and even alert the emergency services if you fall and incapacitate yourself.

We get it. You don’t have time to check off half the items on your to-do list, let alone add another stressor to your life, regardless of how they’re supposed to decrease it.

But, if you’re even half considering bringing one home, or your kids are pestering you for a wee four-legged beastie, and you’re resisting, know that a furry friend could be exactly what you need.

As the proud mother of three cats, two dogs, and foster mom and aunt to several felines and canines (over time, not all at once), let me tell you there is nothing more rewarding, comforting, or amusing than a warm fuzzy kitty or puppy.

Leaving aside the impact on your immune system, blood pressure, stress hormones, and mood, let’s consider the following:

  • Pets make us happy – they bring out the kid in us with their uncomplicated demands of play and fun.
  • Conversely, pets make us grow up – and if you have kids, putting them in charge of certain chores will equip them for taking responsibility.
  • Pets are fun – just spend a few minutes with a kitten or a puppy and you will end up smiling. Trust me. It’s magic.
  • Pets teach us about life – from enjoying the sun, taking naps, asking for what they want, there’s a lot of good lessons you can draw. And teach your kids.
  • Pets are pretty undemanding – they don’t ask for pocket money, forget you when they’re busy, or throw tantrums; they’re unconditionally understanding.
  • Pets are great to come home to – and it’s true: Pets really make a house into a home.

I count myself lucky to be bilingual (I speak K9 and Feline, thank you very much). I grew up with dogs, but have had only cats as an adult. As a woman living in an apartment, I think keeping cats is much easier. Pardon me, I mean, being a slave to a cat is much easier than to a dog. The biggest advantage cats have over dogs is that they don’t need to be walked and while they do shed, they are neat, dignified creatures who do their business in a litter box (that you then have to clean diligently). Nothing, however, beats the welcome I get from my parents’ dog when I enter a room, even if I’ve been out only five minutes.

There are a few caveats, of course.

Pets, as they say, are people, too. They’re not windup toys to perform tricks, do your bidding, or simply greet you when you’re home from work. It’s a two-way street and your relationship is not just about you.

You have to live by a credo of unselfishness and give your dog or cat what it needs: respect, shelter, food, water, and love – through good times and bad, and you’ll be rewarded many times over with companionship, sensitivity, affection, and uncomplicated, totally unconditional love.

I’m biased, but I do believe it really is the best thing you could do for yourself.

If you’re looking to adopt a dog, do visit the Welfare for Stray Dogs in Mumbai, Frendicoes, in Delhi and other shelters across the country. They have abandoned, fully socialized purebred animals as well as hardy strays of all ages who are all desperately looking for their forever homes. For cats, check Pet Santa, World for All, and other groups online.

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