The family pet is often seen as an extended member of the family. Pets are loved and cared for and bring joy and happiness to each member of the family. For those families that have someone with a disability, a pet can also be very therapeutic.
There have been several studies conducted about the benefits of caring for a pet when you have a disability. People with autism, especially children, will interact more with other people when there is a pet in the room. They also become very interested in pet care and well-being which provides them with an important area of focus.
Choosing the right pet to meet the needs of your loved one with a disability, as well as those of the family, does not have to be difficult. Look for a pet that meets your time, space, and care capabilities. Some choices you have for a pet include:
• Dog. You can find dogs in all shapes and sizes and personalities. Dogs are very devoted, love to play, and are loyal. Dogs can be easily trained and can provide valuable services to your loved one. Dogs require exercise and will require vet visits.
• Cat. Cats are very loving animals if they select you to love. They can also be very aloof. If a cat chooses your loved one to be “its human”, then it is a good choice for your home. However, many cats would rather be alone. A cat sleeps for 60 percent of the day and spends another 15 percent of the day cleaning itself. If you are looking for a pet that interacts, this may not be your best choice.
• Bunnies. Bunnies can be very soothing to watch. Rabbits like the company of other rabbits, however, and are not really fond of being held or fondled. They can be trained to use a litter box, but it takes patience. Bunnies are also chewing animals, so you must be prepared to have stuff for them to chew on at all times.
• Guinea Pigs. Guinea Pigs are one of the friendliest of all the small rodents that you can keep as pets. They like to live with at least one other guinea pig and are very happy in a group. These pets like to be held and will interact with you through squeaks and chirping. The cages need to be cleaned daily, however, and you may need to trim their nails.
• Hamsters. The most active of all the pet rodents. These pets are most active at night. They prefer to live in groups and love to play and run around. They have a tendency to bite when held, so it is something that you must consider if you are looking for a pet to hold and hug.
Finding the right pet for your family may take a little bit of time, but it will be well worth the effort. A pet can add joy to your family and bring relief in many ways to those with a disability.