5 ways to spend time with animals if you’re an animal lover


By: Jennifer McMillen Smith, MSSA, LISW-S, Division of Infectious Disease and medically reviewed by Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

A lot of us really love animals and for a good reason! Spending time with animals comes with more benefits than you might realize. They can help improve our self-esteem and feel better about our lives too. Not to mention the fact that having a pet gives you a strong sense of purpose.

Maybe you’ve noticed that when you’re around animals, your mood is better and you feel calmer than you did before. That’s because there’s a connection between being around animals and a boost in your mental health.

Petting cats, dogs, bunnies, and other fuzzy critters are actually good for you. Spending time with animals releases oxytocin in your brain, a hormone that makes you happy, and lowers cortisol, a hormone that causes stress.

There are a lot of different ways of connection with animals benefits us. Keep reading to figure out how your pets and other animals can make a difference in your life!



Most cities have an animal shelter, if not more than one. While they have employees, a lot of animal shelters rely on volunteers to help out with a lot of the work. If you decide to volunteer at a shelter, you get to spend a lot of time with animals and make some human friends along the way. Also, if you’re looking for a way to fit more exercise into your schedule, walking shelter dogs is an awesome way to sneak it in.

Many different animal shelters let you train for different volunteer jobs, which can help you find a job at the shelter you love. Best of all, you can put the fact that you volunteer, along with all those new skills you’ve learned, on your résumé!

Here are just a few of the animal shelters in Northeast Ohio to check out:

Volunteering can be really hard, emotional work, but in the end, it will make you feel good knowing you’re helping animals out in need.


Foster a Pet

Animal shelters can fill up pretty quickly, so they often need people to foster animals to make more room. If you live somewhere that allows animals, consider becoming an animal foster parent!

Fostering a pet is a great way to spend more time with animals if you aren’t quite ready to adopt one yet or simply like the idea of helping many animals out.

It’s important to know that fostering an animal probably won’t be free. The shelter might pay for the animal’s medical expenses, but you’ll likely still need to provide things like food, cat litter, and toys.

Besides caring for your foster pet, you’ll also help give it some structure and plenty of love, getting it ready for its forever family. Marketing the pet online and to friends and family looking for a pet also helps it find the perfect home!

Something to think about before fostering an animal is if you get easily attached. If you think you’ll struggle to say goodbye when the time comes, fostering animals may not be right for you.


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Visit a pet-friendly place

There are a lot of public places you can go to spend time with animal friends. Cat Cafés have boomed and are everywhere now. The cats sleep and play around you while you enjoy your coffee, tea, and snacks. Check out the affoGATO Cat Café here in Cleveland!

Many restaurants and bars allow dogs, especially on outdoor patios. Visiting your local pet store will always guarantee some much-needed time with animals.

If all else fails, there’s always the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo! If you want to do more than just a day trip, they have more than 100 volunteer opportunities. Check them out.


Use an app

Do you like the idea of spending time with animals and getting paid? Well, it’s entirely possible if you use apps like Rover or Wag to animal-sit!

The apps normally require you to have a background check and a few reviews up. Once you get the ball rolling, you should be able to find clients in your neighborhood or nearby who love for you to watch their pets, walk their dogs, and keep an eye on their homes while they’re away on vacation.

If you enjoy taking care of people’s pets, maybe you’ll consider a job working with animals someday.


Help out friends and family

If you’ve had pets before, you know they’re a lot of work. Letting your friends and family know you’re willing to watch their pets while they’re away is another great way to get in some quality animal time. All the fun without the extended responsibility!


Find the best fit

While spending time with animals is worthwhile physically and mentally, we aren’t telling you to go out and adopt a pet right now. Pets can be expensive and a lot of responsibility, and there are so many other ways to spend time with them that will bring you joy. Find the best option for you and your lifestyle and enjoy those pet snuggles!

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