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Are Pets a Good Companion Option for Seniors?

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Companion Pets for Seniors: Benefits and How to Choose the Perfect Pet

Are you considering a pet for an elderly loved one? Maybe you are wondering what is the best pet for a senior citizen?

Either way, we can help!

When looking for a pet for an elderly loved one, you should consider several questions, including:

  • What are the best pets for seniors?

  • How do you choose a pet for a senior?

  • What pets are great for seniors?

This guide answers each of those questions for you.

Table of Contents

How Do Seniors Benefit From Having Pets?

Pet ownership comes with great responsibility, but there are also many benefits to having pets. 

Along with the unconditional love a pet might provide, research has shown many benefits to human-pet interaction, especially in older adults. 

For elders, some benefits of pet ownership include:

  • Helping seniors remain active

  • Providing companionship; and

  • Providing a sense of purpose

In addition to these few benefits, there are many others related to both health and lifestyle.

Health-Related Benefits

Pets can provide numerous health benefits to their owners.

  • Studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure levels and respond better to stress. 

  • Ten minutes of petting a dog can decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Decreased cortisol results in lower blood pressure, a lower heart rate, relaxed muscle tension, and slower breathing. 

  • A cat’s purr can decrease and normalize a person’s heart rate. 

  • Research has shown that it is more relaxing to sleep next to a feline companion rather than sleeping alone.

  • Walking a dog provides frequent exercise, which aids in a lower body mass index. 

Isn’t it great to know that when your loved one has a pet, they not only have a companion, but they are receiving health benefits too?

Lifestyle Benefits

Not only does owning a pet provide health-related benefits, but there are also lifestyle benefits.

  • Feeding and walking a pet is a great way to help a senior keep an established routine.

  • Taking care of a pet can provide seniors with a sense of purpose and something to look forward to each day. 

  • When you own a pet, you have a built-in companion to reduce loneliness.

How fun would it be for your loved one to be out and about with their furry companion and meet other pet lovers?

Senior woman walking beagle

What Are the Best Pets for Seniors?

Finding the perfect pet for a loved one should take some time and consideration.

Before beginning the search for the perfect pet, it’s essential to ask yourself some important questions:

  • Has your loved one ever owned a pet?

  • If so, which pet was their favorite?

  • Does your loved one have any physical conditions which would make caring for a pet difficult?

  • Does your loved one have any allergies? 

  • Does your loved one have the financial means to care for a pet?

Once you answer these questions, you can properly begin your search for your loved one’s furry companion.

Dogs

Known as “Man’s Best Friend”, dogs are usually the first pet that comes to mind when you think of providing companionship. 

They bring love to their owners and are always happy to see them. Also, if trained, dogs can protect their owners and might even bark for help in an emergency. 

If your loved one has limited living space, a smaller dog might be a better choice for them. 

Some smaller dog breeds to consider include:

  • Maltese

  • Shih Tzu

  • Cavalier

  • Pomeranian

  • Poodle; or

  • Corgi

If your loved one does not care to have a high-energy dog, be sure to stay away from breeds like:

  • Shepherds

  • Cattle Dogs; and

  • Huskies

Cats

If you are looking for an independent pet for your loved one, you cannot go wrong with a cat. 

  • Compared to dogs, cats are independent. They do not require extensive walks, and some never leave their home. 

  • Cats also love to play, and simple, quiet toys can keep them entertained. This could be enjoyable for both the cat and your loved one.

  • Cats are much quieter than dogs. However, you should still consider the proximity of your neighbors when living in an environment like an assisted living facility.

Other Pet Options

Even though dogs and cats are the most common pets, they aren’t the only pet option out there.

Fish — Your loved one might not have the space for a larger aquarium, but a small fishbowl would be easy to manage. Betta fish are solitary fish that are colorful and fun to look at. 

Geckos — Geckos aren’t typical pets, but they can be an excellent option for seniors. They are small, low maintenance, quiet, and live a lot longer than fish. 

Rabbits — Rabbits are small and quiet pets and are ideal for seniors. They require regular, but not strenuous, care. Rabbits are also caring animals and will provide companionship for your loved ones.

Cat with senior

Pets and Senior Living Facilities

When a person moves into a senior living facility, there can be challenges to adjusting to their new life. This move can be even more complicated when they have a beloved pet they want to bring with them.

When looking into senior living facilities, be sure to ask if they are pet-friendly facilities or offer pet programs for seniors. If so, the transition for your loved one might be a little easier. 

Can Pets Live in Senior Living Facilities?

When you think of senior living facilities, odds are you think of independent living or assisted living. What is the difference?

  • Independent living — These are age-restricted housing communities that are often only for adults who are 55+ years of age. Care is not usually provided in these facilities. 

  • Assisted living — These are options for seniors who have a minimal need for assistance with some daily living tasks. The main goal is to help seniors live as independently as possible in a safe environment. 

Often, both of these types of senior living facilities will allow pets. Of course, there are rules to follow, and a pet assessment might be required, but the good news is your loved one can have a pet in their home.  

Want more good news? Senior Services of America is happy to provide many pet-friendly communities.

How to Choose a Pet for Yourself or the Senior in Your Life: 4 Factors to Consider

#1: Pet Ownership History

You will need to ask yourself some questions about your loved one’s pet ownership history.

  • Has your loved one owned a pet before, or will this be their first pet?

  • Does your loved one know how to take care of a pet?

  • Is your loved one prepared for the responsibility of pet ownership?

#2: Ability to Care for a Pet

You should assess your loved one’s ability to perform pet care. 

  • If your loved one is still in their home, will they be able to care for a pet fully? 

  • If your loved one is in a senior living facility, what are the rules regarding pet ownership?

  • If assistance with pet care is needed, what services are available?

#3: Cost of Care

As loving and cute as pets are, they do bring with them some financial responsibility. 

  • Does your loved one’s financial situation allow for the added cost of keeping a pet?

  • Will your loved one be able to afford pet necessities such as food and grooming?

#4: Senior Pet vs. Young Pet

There is a big difference between caring for a senior pet and caring for a younger pet. 

Some pros of caring for a senior pet include:

  • Might be trained to follow basic commands

  • Tend to be easier going

  • May require less exercise

  • Often already socialized

  • Temperament and personality are already apparent

Some cons of caring for a senior pet include: 

  • Might have some bad habits that you may not appreciate

  • Often require more vet care which leads to more cost

  • May not have as long with them    

Some pros of caring for a young pet include: 

  • Often very cute

  • May have an idea of genetic history

  • Better chance to train with the behaviors you find favorable

Some cons of caring for a young pet include: 

  • Costs associated with spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and training 

  • Potty training

  • Chewing and clawing

Senior Services of America: Finding the Best Senior Living Option for Seniors and Their Pets

The transition from home to a senior living facility can be difficult, but our communities are designed to provide residents with comfortable, home-like environments.

If you or your loved one does not want to entertain the thought of living without a furry companion, we might have an option for you.

Find your nearest community to learn more about our pet-friendly facilities.

Find a nearby community

 

Senior Services of America

800-689-0493

1201 Pacific Avenue Suite 450 Tacoma, WA 98402 US