5 Things Seniors Need To Ask Before Adopting A Pet

by | Lifestyle

We all know that having a pet has a multitude of benefits for seniors. In a 2018 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Ageing, 79% of respondents reported that having a pet reduces stress, 64% said that it made them more active, 73% said that a pet gave them a sense of purpose, and 43% found that a pet helped them cope better with pain.

Infographic showing the health benefits of Seniors owning pets

If you are a senior adopting a pet, then these are the questions you should be asking yourself before visiting the pound or speaking to a breeder:

How are you spending your Golden Years?

Now that you are retired, do you plan to do more travelling? Or are you looking forward to honing your crossword and sudoku skills at home?

How you spend your time is especially important when choosing an animal companion. Pets are a considerable commitment and require a lot of your time and energy; so, if your retirement planning includes travelling without your pet or you are a senior who often spends a lot of time away from home, owning a pet may not be fair to them.

How physically active are you?

Do you spend a lot of time outdoors walking, hiking or cross country skiing? How about in 5 years? 10 Years?
Or are you a homebody that prefers to stay indoors?

When choosing a pet, especially a dog, it is imperative to research a breed’s temperament – not all dogs and cats are the same! They range from laid back, needing minimal daily exercise to high energy and high maintenance. It is essential to find a pet that matches your lifestyle and personality.

Have you ever owned a pet before?

There is a lot to consider when getting a pet. If you have never had to housebreak a puppy or stop a kitten from climbing your curtains, you may find it very frustrating to do so now.

If this is your first pet, you should consider their specific needs and ask yourself if you are willing to meet them.

  • Dogs need daily exercise and attention but are great companion animals.
  • Cats are more self-sufficient but still need their litter box changed regularly.
  • Senior dogs and cats are an excellent choice for companionship but may have individual health challenges.
  • Birds can be noisy and messy but can also brighten up your day.
  • Bunnies can hop right into trouble but are fantastic cuddlers.

Most shelters or rescues offer a “foster-to-adopt” program that allows you to foster your potential new friend in your home to see if you match before committing.

 Do you have any limiting functionalities or mobility concerns?

If you are a senior with mobility issues, a pet that requires daily walks and exercise may not be the right fit. Likewise, if you are experiencing cognitive challenges, you may want to avoid hard to open cage doors etc. Secondly, many specially trained pets are available to help you, from therapeutic dogs to emotional support pets for seniors.

Looking into what service animals are available to you may help narrow your search for the perfect one.

Can you provide for yourself and a pet?

Many seniors live on a fixed income and the costs associated with pet ownership go beyond food and shelter. As a registered veterinary technician, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to help owners make tough decisions about their pets due to finances. Puppies and kittens need to be spayed or neutered after having their initial vaccines (3-4 visits in the first four months). Pets should be seen annually for vaccines and checkups. Dogs (and some cats) that frequent the outdoors need yearly prevention for fleas and ticks.

Pet insurance is a great option but is still an investment. Toys, treats and other types of enrichment are additional costs not covered by insurance.

Is your current living arrangements suitable for a pet?

If you live in a senior building, does it have a no-pet rule? Living on the 20th floor of a highrise may not be ideal for a dog that needs to go outside frequently.

Indoor cats are more convenient. However, it is in their nature to scratch and claw. Even with appropriate toys and a scratching post, they can be destructive to carpet and furniture.

Allergies may also be an issue if you live with others.

Smaller, pocket pets like bunnies or birds can still give you a great sense of companionship when your residence may have limitations.

Adopt Don’t Shop

Adopting a pet that needs a home is favourable to both humans and animals and results in a mutually beneficial friendship. If you are interested in adoption, there are many reputable rescues. Contacting your local SPCA is an excellent place to start.

When you do decide on your new companion, research animal care resources in your area. Call and interview veterinarians to find one that you feel comfortable with before you need to visit one.

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