If you like animals, you can always find a way to be near them. (Illustration by Kell Kitsch, Deakin University)
College /// Thoughts x

Petlessness can be difficult for any animal-lover, but you can overcome.

Have you ever chased down dogs on the sidewalk or at the park just to give them attention? Ever felt dejected when a stray cat in your neighborhood refused to let you pet them? If your definition of paradise has animals involved, being unable to own a pet can be quite upsetting.

No wonder you keep longing for a pet — pets provide some big benefits to humans, such as easing loneliness, relieving stress and motivating you to exercise. Missing out on having a furry friend, then, can be understandably agonizing at times.

However, fear not. There are plenty of ways to observe, care for and get attached to animals outside of your home. So whatever is keeping you from having a pet, you can always look for loopholes. Here are just a few ways that you can interact with animals without the commitment and complications of adoption.

1. Visit an animal cafe

What is an animal cafe, you ask? Frankly, it’s the best thing ever invented. Cat cafes are the most common, but there are also dog cafes, hedgehog cafes and even an alpaca cafe in Taiwan.

Animal cafes are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, but if you’re dedicated, Los Angeles and New York have some of the most well-known cat cafe destinations. And of course, there are always other more accessible ways to interact with animals during your free time.

2. Travel to animal-centered destinations

If you’re thinking about traveling abroad this vacation, look for places that are known for their proximity to animals. Here are some destinations that seem almost too good to be true:

Aoshima (Cat Island), Japan

This island is one of many around Japan that is dominated by felines. On this one in particular, they outnumber humans six to one. Spending a day surrounded by a bunch of cute cats? Yes, please.

Nara Park, Japan

The city of Nara is known for the wild deer that roam freely around the streets and parks. They are a part of a rich Japanese heritage, as they are considered sacred messengers to the gods.

You can buy “deer crackers” to feed the animals, and otherwise observe them in their natural, free-from-captivity state.

Elephant Nature Park, Thailand

This natural conservation and rehabilitation center houses not only elephants, but also buffalo, dogs, cats and many others. Volunteers and visitors can learn about the animals, and how to protect them.

3. Connect with your favorite animals online

Get the warm and fuzzy feeling of having a pet simply by looking on the internet. Many pet owners, animal sanctuaries and adoption agencies have their own blogs on social media to let the viewers see the animals grow up.

Another way to admire cute animals is through YouTube live streams. Some sanctuaries and adoption centers have live cameras on their animals, so that their viewers can feel like they are really there. Simply type in your favorite animal plus “live stream” on YouTube, and something is bound to pop up.

Instagram is also a prime destination for animal pictures and videos. From adorable puppies to more unusual and elusive cuties like sloths, a burst of delight from your Instagram feed is sure to come after following some of the accounts out there. Some pages follow the life of a single pet, while others repost the best content from other sources. In short, there are endless options when it comes to the Internet.

4. Volunteer at your local animal shelter

Every year animal abuse and neglect has victimized millions of pets around the world. By volunteering at an animal shelter, you will not only get to interact with animals each day you are on the job, but you will also be helping them toward better safety and health. Many animal shelters have multiple locations scattered throughout the states, and their volunteer duties encompass tasks such as cat cuddling (sign me up!), dog walking and more.

ASPCA is one of the big names in animal shelters. They have collectively rescued more than 47,000 animals, and have locations all across America.

The Humane Society of the US is another huge contributor to animal protection. They focus on rescuing companion animals from disaster zones or abusive households and giving them better homes.

Rabbit Rescue Inc. is a no-kill shelter operating in California for all of the bunny lovers out there. A no-kill shelter prohibits the euthanasia of their animals, while performing spay and neuter surgeries to prevent further overpopulation. Although Rabbit Rescue is California-based, there are many other rabbit shelters all over the US.

5. Offer to help care for friends’ pets as a part-time job

If someone you know is going on vacation and needs a pet sitter, take advantage of that opportunity! You can either take care of the pet at your own house, or offer to stay at the owner’s house to pet-sit, depending on the needs of the owners and the pet(s).

Sites like Rover and Trusted House Sitters allow animal lovers to temporarily have their own pet. These sites are also important because they help cut down on animal neglect when owners are out of town.

6. Make sure you and your surroundings are ready before you adopt

If you are serious about getting a pet, it is crucial to prepare both yourself and your environment before adopting. Research the specific health concerns of your animal and make sure your house is suited for the type of pet you want before you go looking for it.

Lastly, make sure you adopt rather than shop, because all animals deserve a safe and welcoming home.

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