Pet like a dog or a cat can provide comfort and companionship for a senior. They also encourage a more active lifestyle. Having something to take care of is beneficial for positive mental health. There are many local programs to help foster a relationship between a senior and a pet needing a stable home.
If you are a senior and are thinking about getting a pet, you are not alone. After the loss of a family pet, seniors 65yo or older, sometimes question if they should take on the responsibility of another pet because of their age. But there are amazing reasons why seniors should get a pet. Depending on the breed most cats or dogs, live anywhere from 5-15 years. Dogs (and cats) are definitely a long-term commitment. However, it very common today for active older seniors in their 70’s or even 80’s, to adopt or foster a new pet. Pets have a way of coming into our lives and bringing a lot of comfort and joy.
The loss of friends, partners, family, or lifelong pets can leave a huge hole in a senior’s life. If your family has had pets for years, and now the house is quiet it can be quite depressing. Isolation becomes a common issue with older adults. The loneliness and depression can be hard to cope with alone. Adopting a pet can provide friendship, hours of entertainment, laughter, and contribute to the emotional well-being of their owners. Older empty-nesters, new retirees, or newly single seniors often find that a new four-legged family member provides a new purpose to their life. A new focus is an excellent way to reframe your brain, step back, and see the positives again.
Good health benefits pets offer their senior owners.
Studies have shown there are numerous benefits of owning a pet. Time spent bonding with pets can help relieve stress and can potentially lower blood pressure. There is some evidence that suggests having a pet can be good for your memory. Studies have shown Alzheimer patients who receive pet therapy remain calmer, have increased appetite, and improved moods. Pets are extremely good at keeping us focused “in the moment”. Running my fingers through Pizza’s soft fur and hearing him purr is pure zen, it is hard to think about anything else. Quiet moments create calm moments which is good for your heart, in more ways than one. Pets have a funny way of drawing our attention away from worry, showering us with love Personally, I find quiet moments with the animals at home, soothing almost meditative. Time spent with pets could be helping me live longer.
“Dog owners have better results after a major health event. The studies found that, overall, dog owners tend to live longer than non-owners. And they often recover better from major health events such as a heart attack or stroke, especially if they live alone.”American Heart Association
Also, If you are out and about, pets are also a wonderful conversation starter. Quite often when I am out with the Goldendoodle I am asked about her, dogs can be used as an excellent way to stay on top of your socialization skills.
After 2020, even as a Gen X-er, after months of isolation and crazy life adjustments, I can appreciate the help of the dog in regaining some socialization skills while we are out walking.
Deciding between adopting a Cat or a Dog ?
Owning a pet is a great motivator to stay busy. Any animal will need your attention and care. Being responsible for a pet can make you feel needed. Honestly, that feels good. It is fun to have someone to love even better than a pet reciprocates unconditional love.
Although I am not a senior yet, a decade ago, in my late thirties, I knew I wanted a pet. How much time I could spend with a little buddy? I had to factor in, how much of a budget I could afford. I had experience with kittens before, therefore I knew they would be very active for a few years then settle down a bit then a grown cat would be calmer. Living in a small apartment on a busy street I knew I would want a pet that would be happy indoors. Given my work schedule at the time, I felt I could give a baby the attention it needed so I decided on a kitten. ( Yes, It was hard to say no to this face)
Adult cats require much less focused activity than a dog and can play and entertain themselves. Cats don’t need to be walked or have extensive training, They can occasionally be left alone overnight, if necessary. Pizza my senior guy has been an only cat for a while now, therefore I do spend time playing with him often. They can be somewhat self-sufficient, sometimes, in my experience.
Can having a cat improve your health ?
A Cat’s Life with an older adult
If you have mobility issues, disabled, or want a companion that likes some alone time, from time to time, a cat may be what you are looking for. Cats also thrive well inside, in fact, indoor-only cats tend to live a longer life. I have had my Pizza Cat in apartments for years. If you have never owned a cat before but are looking for a pal, cats are pretty low maintenance. Today you can even get a monthly disposable litter box. We have been very happy Kitty Poo clients for a few years now. ( I love the convenience of just replacing the entire box every 4-5 weeks … It was a huge pet peeve of mine that even after litter box maintenance, the actual plastic box would smell…this product eliminates that problem. It is environmentally friendly, budget-friendly, family-owned, and convenient)
Depending on the breed cats stay fairly smaller and easier to handle than larger pets. Another advantage is they sleep up to 14-16 hours a day and most love to curl up in your lap. ( or on your keyboard, in the linen closet if the door was left open, on your pillow at night, and if you are lucky, under the covers about 430am when they get particularly cold.) If you are looking for a snuggle buddy, cats do a really excellent job.
What a Senior should consider when adopting a dog
Dogs require more daily attention, if you are looking for a daily walking buddy, a dog is your answer. They also offer security and protection. Keep in mind a bigger dog is also stronger and can be difficult to walk if it is not trained properly. Depending on your activity level, smaller breeds or lap dogs are often a better match and easier to care for.
Dogs are entirely different animals than their feline counterparts. They are the ultimate companion. As much as I love my cat, since working from home this year, I have become really bonded with my roommate’s dog as well. Cats are cool, hip, and loving and a little sassy. While dogs, they have a different vibe. We are friends, she is my shadow, and my best confidant. Often she is quick to remind me when it’s time to be fed, or when it is time to be walked, and when she wants to play. She is the little princess around here, and we all do what we can to make her happy. If you have the time and energy and desire a lovely friend to share adventures with, a dog may be a better choice. She is excellent at helping keep a schedule.
What size or breed ?
There is a multitude of breeds that are well suited to living with an older adult even some large breeds, however smaller to medium dogs usually are a better fit. The following breeds are typically calm, people-pleasing, loyal, and easier to train. It is important to consider a breed with little to no prey drive Many smaller breeds are adaptable to smaller yards or apartment life. They do all love a nice daily walk and exercise, what dog doesn’t? A little fresh air, stretching the legs, a sniff, and a roll in the grass is good for everyone.
- Yorkshire Terrier/ Fox Terriers
- Shih Tzu
- Boston Terrier
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
How much maintenance will be necessary ?
If allergies are a concern some breeds like poodles are even considered hypoallergenic. The still shed but there is less dander. Short-haired dogs shed less making home cleaning easier as well. They will need less grooming and maintenance. A smaller dog also will need less exercise.
Or perhaps now you have the time and patience want to learn to groom your dog, in that case, a dog with more maintenance might be what you want. It is fair to say once a dog touches your heart, they kind of also become the center of your world.
How often will you need veterinary visits ?
As a senior, if you living alone but no longer driving, it is smart to take into account the number of appointments dog ownership involves. Fortunately today there are several options to make life more convenient. There are mobile groomers, mobile pet transport companies, auto-shipping pet food options. It has become a very friendly world for animal lovers who want to adopt later in life. It will increase your budget for pet care, however not being able to drive, doesn’t have to be a reason NOT to adopt.
A Senior get pet insurance can be useful if unexpected expenses come up. A healthy pet is a happy one. So regular visits are important. Insurance can help offset some of the cost. However you need purchase before any pre existing conditions show up.
Dogs and Cats do require a monthly budget and often Seniors are on a fixed income, however there senior programs out there to help keep pet expenses reasonable. Seniors are encouraged to get a pet if they so choose, there are many positives.
Local Shelter Programs
Have you considered an older dog or a senior cat? There are many senior pets that need homes that would be happy to live with a senior citizen. An adult dog over 3 years old is past the young puppy stage. They are still quite active but their personality is fully developed. Unfortunately, sometimes older pets end up in the shelter because of the death of an owner. It is traumatizing to both the pet and pet parent when an owner is no longer capable of their care. The shelter is FULL of owner surrender, senior pets needing a new home. Older pets can require special care or medications. Occasionally, they are confused and lonely, in need of love, just like you might be. What a beautiful opportunity to turn a sad event into a joyful one.
Help for Seniors
Any prospective pet parent, or owner regardless of age, should have a plan in place if they can no longer care for their pet, or if their situation changes. There is no reason to let age or limited physical ability stop you from adopting a new cat or dog. It can be a life-changing event, it is MORE than just a good idea for older seniors to adopt a pet, under the right circumstances.
Often retired working dogs are also looking for a forever home. If you are looking for a specific retired breed, a rescue can offer advice. There is no reason why age should be a worry there are a lot of options.
Today there are programs at local shelters that specifically help place senior citizens with senior pets. Many shelters even offer discounted adoption fees for senior citizens.
Pets for the Elderly, is a non-profit working with shelters in 35 states, in 53 shelters that match seniors with pets.
Regardless of the animal’s age, it is important to get a clean bill of health or a proper diagnosis of any health issues. If you have the time, discipline, and resources, there is no reason not to adopt an older pet that needs medication. Like humans, dogs can develop diabetes or other ailments that are controlled by medications. It adds to the responsibilities but doesn’t mean a senior citizen and senior dog won’t be a good match.
Retired Seniors with adopted pets
Just because you want to travel in your golden years, it doesn’t mean you can’t add a pet to your family. Today well behaved leashed pets are allowed more and more places.
“Pet friendly business practices are taking root everywhere, from banks who open their doors to pets, to restaurants with special menus for dogs, to hotels that greet each pooch with a thoughtful canine welcome basket.”–www.tripswithpets.com
It is a fact of life that no one knows how long we have on this earth. Death is just a part of the circle of life. As parents and pet parents, it is always necessary to make arrangements in case the unthinkable happens unexpectedly at any age. It is equally important to make alternate arrangements for your pet should your life circumstances change. When adopting a pet make sure you have a friend or neighbor or adult child willing to help with pet care in case you can no longer do it.
If your future plans include a move to an assisted living facility, you may be able to find one that accepts pets. Many places allow pets, some even encourage others yet do not. If the facility doesn’t allow pets it may be worth asking if you can have four legged visitors.
Dogs and Cats are like the icing on a chocolate donut, Sure, the donut is good on its own, but the icing adds more. The icing adds flavor and sweetness and a lovely shine, it makes the donut just a little bit yummier.
Do not let age stop you if you want to be a hero and get a pet. Seniors have one final amazing reason to adopt a pet: LOVE We all need a little more of that!
I’m a busy blogger pet parent to my senior-aged cat Pizza. We have traveled all over Los Angeles, endured several moves, jobs, roommates and now global pandemic together. Today we write, learn, and share information and our favorite products, in hopes you can experience your best life with pets too, We currently live with other humans and their beautiful dog.