There’s nothing like coming home to a happy pet that’s excited to see you! Did you know that it’s good for your health as well? While it might seem that the responsibility of a pet is too much for some seniors, the positive aspects far outweigh the negatives. There’s been a lot research done on the subject, and the results are significant. Let’s look over some of the benefits, how to decide if it’s right for you, and how to care for your pet long-term.
Caring for a pet gives you a sense of purpose, which is particularly important for older people. It reduces stress levels and can help lower anxiety. A study conducted by the University of South Carolina discovered that simply petting a dog lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Clearly, animal companions are very beneficial to both the young and the old.
Cats and dogs are the most popular pet choices, though many enjoy caring for birds, reptiles, rabbits, and a variety of other animals. For this article, however, we’ll focus on our feline and canine friends.
Cats are a favorite choice of seniors. The benefit of these companions is that they need less direct attention than a dog does. They clean themselves, tend to be quiet, and enjoy lying around doing nothing! Many of them love to cuddle with their owners, or simply lay in bed next to them.
You might consider adopting an older cat, rather than a kitten, as they will have a calmer nature. Several cat breeds work especially well for the elderly. One is the British Shorthair, who is mellow, independent, and plays alone happily. Russian Blues are quiet yet loving, preferring to stay close to their owners, and Persians are known to be affectionate and gentle.
Dogs have always been popular, with families, single adults, and seniors. They are an excellent choice for many. What about you? Easy-natured breeds include Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Greyhounds, and Bichon Frises.
There are a few things to consider before taking on this responsibility. One is how often you can walk your dog, and take them outside for fresh air. Another is the concept of dog training – is this dog already trained? Is it a puppy that’ll need a lot of attention at first? The expense of food, flea products, vet visits, and the like, should all be factored into your decision.
These questions can all be addressed. First, choosing an adult dog that has already been housebroken and taught manners will be less work. You can utilize dog-walking services, or ask an in-home caretaker to help out. Family members might be willing to come walk them every couple days, or to take them for grooming. Some veterinarians make house calls, as well as some grooming businesses. There are local groups and programs that offer help for seniors with pets.
You’ll also want to prepare for the possibility that your pet may outlive you. It’s not uncommon for family members to take the pets to a shelter to be euthanized, being unsure of what else to do. This isn’t something many people think of, but there are definitely active steps you can take now to ensure your pet’s wellbeing. It can be difficult for many seniors to contemplate their own deaths, but preparing in advance will bring you peace of mind.
Do you have a designated caregiver who is committed to being in charge of your pet’s future? This could be a family member, a good friend, or even a long-term pet sitter you trust. Next, write up a few pages detailing specifics such as their favorite brand of food, any medications they need, and their daily routine. In the case of an emergency, your pet won’t be able to vocalize what they need, so it’s up to you. You can even set aside a fund to cover future expenses.
Don’t simply rely on an informal conversation. Include the information in a will or trust. Seek legal advice on the best way to go about this.
In summary, caring for a pet goes a long way in fighting the loneliness many retirees and elderly feel. They act as friends who are always around for a hug. Seniors often have a great deal of experience in nurturing others, and pets can provide an outlet for this need even when children are grown and out of the house. Taking care of another living thing again often leads to a senior caring for themselves better too!
For additional resources, check out the Placer County SPCA. They offer a variety of services and can provide support.