There’s plenty of evidence that pets raise quality of life in all sorts of ways, so if you want to be happier and healthier, getting yourself an animal companion is one of the easiest ways to do it.
Well, it’s easy if you’re a civilian… If you’re in the military, and especially if you’re living in single accommodations, it can be a bit harder. Don’t give up hope though – there are still ways you can manage to keep a pet as a service member. Your choices are more limited and you’ll have to do some planning, but it’s definitely not impossible. Let’s look at some of the options.
Pets at Home
If you’re cohabitating, you have pretty much the same options as anyone else; when you’re deployed, or away training, your family or roommate can look after a dog, cat or other pet. A lot of it depends on the type of housing you’re in, though. If you live in family housing, there may be regulations about what pets can be kept, or even vaccination requirements. There are usually strict rules about where pets are allowed in housing areas, and you’ll be responsible for cleaning up any mess. Check with your post housing staff to confirm special local requirements. This is vital if you’re posted overseas with a pet, too; take a pit bull to Germany, for example, and you’ll have to pay an annual fee of up to $700. If you live in a private building, check with the owner or letting agent for their rules on pets. Be aware that move-out inspections will pay extra attention to homes with registered pets and that you’re likely to get billed for any damage.
For single soldiers, living options are more limited. First, check regulations to see if there are any restrictions on what’s allowed. You can’t keep a cat or dog in an accommodation block anyway, so you’ll need to look at small pets. Rabbits are a possibility, but they’re happiest when they can have an outside run, and that’s almost certainly not an option. Mice, rats, hamsters and similar small rodents are a possibility, of course. They’ll live quite happily in a cage and don’t need to get out for exercise as long as they have a wheel or similar toys.
If you fancy something a bit more exotic, consider snakes, lizards or even arachnids. These aren’t low-maintenance pets exactly, but many species can be left for days or even sometimes weeks without much attention, which makes for less to worry about if you’re going away on a short exercise or course.
There are a few other potential issues with pets in communal accommodation. You’ll need to be rigorous at cleaning cages or other enclosures – a smelly cage isn’t going to be popular and could attract the wrong kind of attention from the chain of command if anyone complains. Make sure your choice of pet fits into your on life without causing stress, too. The attractions of an animal can wear off pretty quickly if a squeaky hamster wheel is keeping you awake.
While You’re Gone
One of your main concerns as a single soldier is finding someone to look after your pets while you’re away. Local pet boarding may be available for some species, or a colleague might be willing to let you leave them with his family. If you’re doing that, make sure you also leave enough food, any medications or grooming accessories, the contact details of your vet, and some cash to cover any unexpected costs.
Owning a pet as a service member poses a few challenges that civilians don’t have to deal with, especially for singles. Warriors are good at overcoming challenges, though, and with a bit of thought, it’s almost always possible to come up with a solution. Get it right and you’ll open the way to a lot of pleasure and satisfaction, so if pet ownership appeals to you, start asking questions to find out what your options are. It’s worth the effort!
Have a pet? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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