Fun ways to care for a pet without the hefty price tag

Here are the perfect workarounds for those of us who love animals but can’t commit to the permanency of being a pet owner.

By Carolyn Tate

Any animal lover knows that pets are a great companion. They provide companionship and unconditional love, help fight depression, improve our mood and outlook, promote healing, increase resilience, and offer a wonderful distraction from our troubles.

There is even research that shows dog and cat owners laugh more on a daily basis than those who don’t have pets. And we know that they can be incredibly helpful for your mental health after you’ve suffered a loss.

Enjoy the benefits of pets without a long term commitment

But with pets comes great responsibility, and there are plenty of reasons you may baulk at the idea of committing to a pet. Perhaps your living situation isn’t ideal for pets, your health may prevent you from wanting to take on a pet, or maybe you like to travel and the commitment is too much.

Whatever your situation, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the benefits of pets without the cost or commitment. You just have to be a little bit creative – and you also have to be willing to say goodbye to them at some stage.

But if you’re okay with that arrangement, here are a few options for pet lovers to get their furry fix.

Open your heart as a doggy foster carer

There are many reasons a pet may require a foster home where it can be loved and taken care of in the short term – such as recovering from a health issue or a distressing past – before it can go to its forever home. 

Being fostered is so much better for the animals than staying in a shelter, and fostering can be a fulfilling way for you to support animal welfare organisations and help alleviate overcrowding in shelters. By opening your home to a foster pet, you directly contribute to their wellbeing and increase their chances of finding a permanent loving home. It’s a win-win!

Contact: RSPCA, Four Paws, Pet Rescue

Open your arms as a volunteer

You can offer your time to help care for animals in shelters, which can be a great option if you can’t have animals in your home. There are also positions for people to drive rescue vans and fill other roles that can help protect vulnerable animals. 

Animal rescue organisations rely on volunteers to continue operating, and you also get to reap the benefits of having endless pets to care for. Volunteering can also be a rewarding experience, offering opportunities for personal growth and connection with like-minded people who share a passion for animal welfare. 

Whether you're walking dogs, socialising with cats, or assisting with adoption events, your time and effort can make a real difference in the lives of shelter animals.

Contact: RSPCA, Go Volunteer

Open your home as a doggy daycare

You can care for someone else’s pet for the day, overnight or longer holidays, from the comfort of your home. Offering doggy daycare is a flexible way to get your pet fix, because you get to decide when you’re available and the animals you want to mind.

You’ll often have a regular client or two so you can form a strong bond and enjoy an ongoing relationship, like being a favourite aunty. All care, no responsibility! And the best part? You’ll even be paid for your time. 

All you need to do is register your profile on one of the many doggy daycare platforms and wait for a match.

Contact: Mad Paws, Pawshake

Open your mind with pet sitting

If you’re flexible and you like a bit of adventure, you can take the doggy daycare idea even further and register as a house and pet sitter, where you stay in someone’s home while they’re away and care for their pets. 

You might also be asked to water some plants or take care of the home in other ways, but many people just want someone at home to ensure their pets are loved and cared for - without having to send them out to a kennel. 

You can offer this service just in your hometown, or you can use these opportunities to travel more widely. You might even become a favourite housesitter for some, and book in regular visits. It’s a great way to meet new pets and experience a good amount of time with them, as well as being able to have a budget holiday.

Contact: Aussie Housesitters, Trusted Housesitters, Happy Housesitters

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