Having a pet can be really rewarding. Pets are cute and they bring a lot of love and joyful moments into your life. Also, many of them can indeed improve seniors’ health and safety. Yet owning a pet comes hand in hand with responsibility. They need care and attention: some pets require more, others less.
When searching for the best pet for our senior loved ones, it’s best to start by answering some questions:
- Did they have any pets in the past?
- Did they enjoy being a pet owner?
- What about their physical condition: which pets would be too exhausting for them to take care of?
- Do they have the financial means?
- Do they prefer bigger or smaller pets?
- Do they need a companion or just a little living creature to ease loneliness?
And finally, of course, we should ask about their preferences as well. Usually, it’s not a good idea to buy a pet as a surprise. Many questions, I know, but you want to find the BEST pet for seniors…
Always take the personality of the prospective owner into consideration. Some people just don’t like pets. It’s best to accept it. Buying a pet for someone who doesn’t want it can be a nightmare for both the owner and the pet. That’s why it’s so important to make sure seniors really want a little creature in their home.
Benefits of Owning a Pet
Owning a pet can have many protective effects for seniors. Benefits depend mostly on how they interact with their pets. A relationship in which humans and animals can bond with each other is probably the most advantageous.
Let’s see the most important benefits of having a pet:
- According to scientists owning a pet can decrease blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol level in the blood (it’s partly due to the increased activity that often comes with pet ownership) (source).
- There is evidence that pets can relieve chronic pain and usually, people who use pet therapy need fewer painkillers as well (source).
- Many elderly people suffer from anxiety and low mood or depression. Pets can reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood. For example, petting a dog increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. Sometimes a little creature can add a whole new perspective of the boring weekdays, especially in the case of elderly people who live alone. Also, seniors owning a pet they’re responsible for, enjoy life more.
- Older adults with Alzheimer’s dementia have fewer agitated episodes when there’s a pet with them (source).
- Seniors, even if they live alone, don’t feel so lonely when having a pet.
- Many times owning a pet means more outdoor activities and exercise. Seniors are more likely to go for a walk with their pets.
- A well-trained dog improves seniors’ safety because they’re one of the best burglar deterrents and they may call for help in case of an emergency.
- Also, elderly people with a pet have a lower chance of being isolated and they’re more likely to socialize.
Best Pets for Seniors
Dogs – Loyal Companions for Seniors
Dogs are similar to a friend, and they’re without doubt one of the best pets for seniors. They’re a great companion and can bring so much love into seniors’ life. They’re always happy when they see their owner and seniors feel important in their company.
Dogs can contribute to elderly people’s safety, especially if they’re trained. They can call for help in an emergency or protect their owners from violent people. Most dogs need daily walks that contribute to seniors’ health.
What Are the Best Companion Dog Breeds for a Senior Citizen?
Many seniors prefer dogs to other pets but sometimes it’s hard to decide on the breed. There are so many to choose from.
If a senior doesn’t have much space or can’t afford or handle large dogs, a Maltese, a Shih Tzu, a Cavalier, a Pomeranian, a Poodle, or a Corgi can be a great choice.
Shih Tzu, Maltese, and Pomeranian dogs are so small that they can be easily carried in a bag.
Seniors who prefer larger dogs should consider the Greyhound or the Beagle. Despite being a racing dog the activity of a Greyhound is not above average. It’s easy to handle and train.
A Beagle can be ideal for those seniors who are living an active life. Beagles love big walks and playing in the yard. Don’t forget that a larger dog eats more and that means larger expenses as well.
Before deciding on any breed, always learn about its specific needs.
Of course, you can always opt for a mixed breed dog.
So, Should a Senior Citizen Get a Dog?
As you can see, having a dog has many benefits, however, you should always consider its drawbacks too. Some seniors suffer from severe mobility issues and going for a walk every day would be very exhausting for them. For some elderly people, barking can be annoying. Others simply prefer cats. Anyway, if there’s nothing against owning a dog, go for it.
If being a dog owner is not an option, seniors can still benefit a lot from volunteering at an animal shelter, taking care of the neighbor’s dog, or visiting dog therapy sessions.
Cats are more independent creatures than dogs. They don’t need big walks, some of them never leave the house and still have a great time. In addition, they are much quieter pets than dogs. Also, they require less attention, yet can give a lot of love. Most cats love to play and simple toys can engage their attention for long periods of time.
So, Are Cats Good Pets for Seniors?
Cats are an ideal choice for seniors who want a companion in their home but don’t live an active life. Cats get used to a new environment pretty quickly, though it’s true that kittens sometimes can be problematic in the beginning. Cats love to be petted and they can be very thankful for it.
Some of the best cat breeds for indoors: Persian, Ragdoll, British Shorthair, Cornish Rex, and Russian Blue.
Rabbits for Seniors
Similar to cats, rabbits can live a whole life indoors. They’re very curious and energetic animals. They can show unpredictable and shy behavior at the beginning but can get used to their owners fast. From that moment they let their owners pet them and feel pretty comfortable, many times even in their lap. Yet, they usually prefer being on the ground to being picked up.
Rabbits don’t like environmental changes, so it’s usually not a good idea to take them with you on a vacation. A German Angora Rabbit or a Meissner Lop can be a good choice for seniors. Both are friendly and social rabbits and can be great companion pets for elderly people.
Birds for Seniors
Some seniors enjoy birdsong and can fall in love with their new feathered friend in no time. Having a bird at home sometimes can be a really relaxing experience. Yet, birds occasionally can be pretty loud, especially if they’re not alone. And yes, sometimes they start singing in the early morning. Note that some seniors enjoy being woken up by their new birdie, while others are not so enthusiastic about it.
As for caring, birds don’t have many needs. You can keep them in a large cage or free in the room. Parakeets can be a good choice for seniors: they’re pretty small so they won’t make a big mess in the room when they’re free and they’re also quieter than bigger birds.
Fish – Relaxing Companions for Seniors
Fish differ greatly from all pets mentioned so far. Unlike land animals, fish won’t be very happy if you touch them. Everything for the eyes, nothing for the hands. Anyway, watching an aquarium full of fish of different shapes and colors can be really calming.
Fish can be a great choice for most seniors even if they already own a pet. A small aquarium doesn’t need too much maintenance and the care of fish is also pretty easy.
Owning a pet can be a great experience for seniors. If someone feels lonely, a little living creature can really make a difference. Sometimes choosing a baby animal is not the best idea: they require intense attention and care that can be exhausting for some seniors. Yet, if they feel ready to bring up a baby pet, go for it.
Being a pet owner can have many benefits: it improves seniors’ health, mood, and safety, reduces anxiety, promotes socializing – just to mention a few. Yet, finding the best pet for seniors is not always an easy task. There’re many things to consider: seniors’ preferences, mobility, health, personality and lifestyle, the needs of the pet, and the costs.
However, I think it’s definitely worth the time and effort because this way you can find a perfect companion pet for your loved one. If you want to dive deeper into the topic, you can read a lot of useful and reliable pet caring information on the website of ASPCA.