Houseplants versus Pets: The Costs and Benefits

Moving out from their parents or moving in with their significant other, renting or purchasing a new house or apartment – people usually face this decision: whether they should buy a houseplant, a pet, both, or neither. Most often, when not, people who intend to settle down, even temporarily, eventually decide to make the place they are staying at feeling more like home. Having both is an excellent choice but not for beginners. Therefore, this essay will not consider the options of choosing both or neither but will concentrate on comparing the costs and benefits of having either a plant or a pet.

In the modern world, all decision-making typically starts with evaluating costs. However, in the current dilemma, there are many variables that complicate the analysis. For instance, there are relatively cheap common houseplants like Spider Plants, Peace Lilies, or Chinese Money Plants that usually cost less than $20, but there are also more expensive options that cost up to and more than $100. As for pets, it also depends on the kind of animal and the way of sourcing it a person settles on. For instance, the cost of taking a cat from a shelter or buying from a breeder would be quite different, with the first option being about $50-$100, and the second variant exceeding $300. Purchasing a hamster, however, would be much cheaper, with the price being similar to the one of Spider Plants.

However, apart from evaluating the cost of the purchase itself, a potential owner should also pay attention to the average annual cost of keeping a houseplant versus a pet. New plants typically require pots and soil for replanting and may also need some fertilizers. Pets requirements are usually greater starting from necessities such as food and bowls and ending with presumably less important but still desirable items such as toys. Moreover, even healthy animals demand preventive medical procedures, especially if they spend time outdoors. As they grow older, the need for visits to a veterinarian would only increase. Thus, owning a houseplant is, in general, much cheaper than keeping a pet.

Connected to cost is the question of the overall care animals and plants require. Plants usually need more attention in the beginning. Purchasing one, a person should read about its preferences: how often it must be watered, does it feel better in a dry or wet climate, how much lighting it needs. Moreover, newly-bought plants may need replanting with this procedure repeating with some intervals. Adopting an animal is also most difficult in the beginning. An owner should take it to a veterinarian, litter train, and generally adjust their household and lifestyle to the pet. However, as has already been mentioned above, caring for an animal is a much more demanding process even after the initial stages. An owner should feed them regularly, attend to their health, play, or walk with them.

There is also another aspect worth consideration – the time they can be left unattended for. In the case of houseplants, it depends on the type. While there are several plants that require frequent watering, there are many that can be safely left for some time. For instance, African Violets and Spider Plants can survive without water for about a week (which can leave a person an opportunity for a short vacation), while succulents can live without attention even longer. Moreover, there are devices that provide automatic watering. Animals, however, even with several bowls filled with food, can be left alone on average for no longer than three to four days. Therefore, deciding to leave, an owner would have to find someone who would attend to their pet or someplace to leave it for a while (which can also cost some money). Hence, having a houseplant leaves a person more flexibility.

On the other hand, apart from cost and care, there are less practical but, to a certain extent, more important aspects to consider while choosing between pets and houseplants. There are several benefits to owning a plant. First of all, they are expected to clean the air in the room and, depending on the type, some are doing a pretty decent job. Moreover, green leaves and flowers usually brighten the place, making it more attractive. With plants, an apartment or a house typically feels more like home helping people to feel comfortable. However, with pets, an owner can have more joys. Animals, especially large ones, like cats and dogs, can become loyal companions. Having them lying on the lap, playing with them, and talking to them (looking less strange than if talking to plants) helps to relax, recharge and destress. Spending time with pets is considered to be beneficial for patients experiencing long-term mental health complications (Brooks 10). Overall, owning even one pet can alleviate the feeling of loneliness and reduce anxiety better than having multiple houseplants.

On balance, both options discussed in this essay have advantages and disadvantages worth considering. There are different people with varying needs and character traits that have to be analyzed as a part of the decision-making process. Overall, houseplants are better suited for individuals who move or travel a lot and want to be flexible and avoid having much responsibility. They are also the best option for people with tighter budgets. Pets, however, are known to be excellent companions, especially helpful for individuals with mental health problems. On the other hand, they require more attention: before adopting a pet, a person must evaluate their resources to decide whether they are ready for such a responsibility.

Works Cited

Brooks, Helen Louise, et al. “The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems: a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the evidence.” BMC Psychiatry, vol. 18, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-12.