Article: How a Pet Can Heal Your Heart and Head When Divorcing

By: Joshua E. Stern, Esq.

Anyone in the midst of a divorce, parents and children alike, knows how stressful life can become. Routines are changed, schedules rearranged, and relationships redefined. It should come as no surprise then that during the divorce process and in the aftermath of it, many people experience loneliness, isolation, and loss. One way to combat such feelings is to adopt a pet. Though the addition of a dog, cat, rabbit, or whatever animal you choose will inevitably create more “work” for new owners, the benefits of welcoming a pet into your home during or following a divorce can far outweigh the detriments.

Benefits of Pet Ownership to Children During and After Divorce

In a time of upheaval, where children may suddenly be moving back and forth between two homes or where parents begin “nesting” and alternate living at one home while the kids stay put, a pet can serve as a constant in a sea of variables. Taking care of a pet requires establishing a set routine and assuming specific responsibilities. For adults whose lives are in turmoil, pet care may provide a sense of control where it is lacking. The same goes for children. Caring for an animal can be an effective way to boost children’s self-esteem. By providing for a pet’s basic needs – feeding it, making sure its water bowl is filled, brushing it, cleaning its litter box, or walking it – children will feel they are part of something bigger than themselves and gain confidence along the way.

That newfound sense of self will inevitably trickle into other areas of the pet owner’s life. Pet owners often find themselves reaching out to other pet owners based on shared interests, whether during a walk through their neighborhood or a dog park. A pet can also bridge communication gaps where there are ones, becoming a “safe” topic for discussion, especially with children.

It’s no secret well cared for pets love their owners unconditionally. And that pet owners love their pets. Along with the joy and laughter created as a pet becomes an integral and indispensable part of a household, a pet can serve as a devoted friend who will listen to you without judgment, keep you company when you are alone, and intuitively offer you affection exactly when you need it most.

General Benefits of Pet Ownership

The benefits for pet owners are not only emotional. There are physical benefits as well. According to the American Heart Association, owning a pet, especially a dog, can reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies, most of which were conducted using dogs, show that owners who regularly walk their dogs are more likely to reach the recommended level of physical activity. There is also a limited amount of research connecting pet ownership with modestly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and a higher likelihood of surviving a heart attack. But The American Heart Association is quick to caution that these factors should not be the sole reason for adopting a pet. Instead, people should bring a pet into their lives because they want to give that pet a home and will derive enjoyment from doing so.

Regardless of the type of pet that you invite into your family, its presence can change your life and the lives of those around you for the better. If you are already fortunate enough to have a pet in your home as you embark on the divorce process, you may find yourself appreciating the benefits you reaped in the past even more. Regardless of whether you adopt now, or in a few months or years down the road, the opportunity is available whenever you are.

For resources on giving a homeless animal a forever home, visit your local shelter or online at:

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Adopt A Pet,

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