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4 Awesome Alternatives to Pet Ownership

Last week was National Puppy Day, so no doubt your Instagram feed was filled with picture after picture of oversized-paws, pink tongues and floppy ears… all tagged #furbaby – amiright?

I can imagine if you want a pet, but don’t have one, it may tug at the heart strings a bit. But having a pet requires a big commitment and since we’re a financial blog, we’ll just go ahead and break the news: pet ownership is not cheap.

If you are currently not in a state to take on the unexpected expenses that come with #furbaby, this does not mean you and your family can’t have the experience of bonding with and caring for a furry (or scaly!) friend.

Here are 4 awesome, feel-good ways you can create the experience of having a pet without taking on the cost of it. [Hint: #2 can even double as your side hustle!]

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Volunteer at a shelter

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This one shouldn’t come as a surprise, but here’s the extra kick-in-the-boot to get you to check it out! Your local shelter is looking for people just like you to help out with exercising the pets and giving positive attention to animals waiting for their forever home.

Pro tip: If you are reallllly wishing you could have a pet but know it’s just not the right time financially, this could be a risky option (they don’t call them “puppy dog eyes” for nothing).

But if you are resolved you can’t have a pet and still want to be around animals, this is a wonderful way to not only get in the fur-baby time, but also give back to your community. Bottom line: all that attention and trust-building you provide is making that animal a better candidate for a good home with its own family. Pat yourself on the back – if you pick this option, you’re killing it in the Make the World a Better Place category.

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Pet Sit

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Taking a pet into your own home (or staying at someone else’s home to watch their pet) is like having an Auntie/Uncle weekend. It’s the best. You get to pretend for whatever period of time that you have a pet of your very own – but no financial responsibilities (not to be mistaken for no responsibilities). Not to mention, providing a home environment will likely help ease any kind of separation anxiety the pet may generally experience when their person is away.

Pro tip: if it’s a cat, might be better to house sit in addition to pet sit, it’s likely they’d be more distressed by moving homes for a period of time than having their owner gone.

Super pro tip: Before offering up your home, make sure it is properly secured to have a pet roam around. Holes in fences, ajar windows, etc could tempt the little dude to find his way back to his parent’s house.

To find opportunities to pet sit – become familiar with the pets in your neighborhood and let their owners know of your interest. If you have a friend with a beloved pet, be sure to let them know you would love to watch them when they go out of town. Many pet owners are hesitant to ask for this kind of help, but it’s a relief to know someone you trust is willing to watch them.

If you want to make money doing this and actually make a side hustle out of it, check out sites like Rover or DogVacay. These are awesome resources for pet owners to find vacation homes for their pups.

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Fostering a pet

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Many shelters and animal rescues have special programs to find homes for their animals due to overflow of pets in need or to get them used to living in a home environment. Reach out to a local animal rescue and ask about their programs. Many will help financially with the cost for the pet (i.e. food, medical bills, etc) – but not all. Be sure to get the full details ahead of time. Also, be prepared that eventually you will part with the animal. Maybe pre-plan how you will celebrate when the pet does find a home to help with the transition.

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Service Dog Training

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You’ve likely seen a service dog and are familiar with the incredible benefit they offer people with disabilities. But did you know, for many of these programs, the dogs start their initial training in a prison? Sounds scary, but it’s a great way for inmates to take on a positive responsibility and the bond they develop is often so beneficial, it’s actually a rehabilitation method. In between the pup’s time learning basic training and then going on to the hard-core service training, they need time to adapt to the outside world. This is where you could come in! Many programs, such as ICAN in Indiana, need temporary homes for these dogs before they go on to become the heroes they’re destined to be. Look in your state for similar programs!