Elderly Pet Owners: What To Consider Before You Adopt

Pets are affectionate, caring companions that can make us smile and feel loved and needed. This sense of social interaction and feeling of purpose makes it seem like a pet would be an ideal companion for an elderly person who is alone or melancholy. But this isn't always the case.

There have been studies that show for elderly pet owners who often live alone or in group facilities, pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase social interaction, laughter and physical activity, and aid with learning.

And while these things are all undoubtedly beneficial, it is important for seniors wanting pets to consider their own health, well-being, and ability to provide care before committing to a pet.

Questions For Elderly Pet Owners To Consider:

  1. Is your current living situation suitable for the pet you are considering?
    • If you are living in a facility, check their policy to make sure they allow the type of pet you are considering. If you live at home, make sure you have adequate outdoor space and there aren't any obvious hazards inside or out.
  2. Are you planning to move soon?
    • It is important for a pet to have a stable living situation where they can feel comfortable, and that they're not being constantly uprooted. 
  3. Do you or a loved one have allergies, lung conditions, or other health concerns that might be affected by the presence of a pet?
    • It is very common to have pet allergies, so be sure to talk to your doctor before adopting a pet if you know that you or one of your family members has a health condition.
  4. Can you afford the cost of pet care?
    • Pet care can be expensive when you consider the cost of regular food and supplies, plus veterinary care, which increases as your pet ages. Some organizations, such as Purina and Pets For The Elderly, can provide minimal assistance, but most of the financial burden will fall on you.
  5. Do you have the time and/or energy to take care of a pet?
    • Pets also require a lot of attention, focus, time, and energy to ensure their happiness and safety. They require regular grooming, playtime, exercise, and feedings, many of which occur several times a day. Some pets need more attention and energy than others, so be sure to do your research beforehand. But don't be fooled, all pets require attention and proper love and care, which means your time and energy.
  6. Are you able to transport the pet to the vet, and pick up necessary pet care items?
    • You need to be able to drive to have the ability to take your pet to the vet when they need to go, and to go to the store to pick up their supplies. These supplies can often be heavy and cumbersome. Take into account you might need assistance with this.
  7. Is the pet you're adopting the right age for you?
    • Kittens and puppies might be cute, but their energy and behavior might not be the right fit. Consider adopting an older animal. They tend to be require less exercise and are easier to care for, plus you can offer them a loving home when others might not want them.
  8. Would the pet you are considering hinder your personal safety?
    • One of the major concerns for elderly pet owners is pets causing a fall or another injury. There have been studies that show owning cats and/or dogs can be both stressful and dangerous for the elderly. In a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 86,000 fall injuries associated with cats and dogs occurred each year from 2001-2006. The most common injuries were fractures and contusions/abrasions, with the highest fracture rates occurring among older individuals 

Although these factors should be considered and taken seriously, it is also important to consider the positive effects of having a pet, and determining if one is right for you and your home. It is possible for older adults to safely own, love, and care for a pet, as long as they have done their research and have prepared themselves and their homes.

Finding The Right Pet

While large dogs are easy to see and, thus, harder to trip over, they generally require more physical care, such as frequent walks,  bending over to clean up after them in public, and brushing and grooming. Small dogs can require less physical energy, but can get out of sight and lost easier, or cause falls from being underfoot.

Cats generally require less care than dogs, as they don't need to be taken out for walks and require less grooming. Fish and other types of pets, such as hamsters or birds, could require even less. Remember to select the type of pet with the right temperament for your needs.

The right pet for you also depends on your own budget, energy, time, and physical limitations. You can take quizzes to determine the right pet for you and your home, and look through this checklist to ensure you are ready for your animal. Also consider that individuals with certain disabilities, impairments, or illnesses may be candidates for assistance or therapy dogs that can help them function or interact.

When you are ready to adopt, there are reputable breeders all over the country, but you should also consider adopting from your local shelter to give a homeless animal a new loving home and a new life. June is National Adopt-A-Cat-Month, sponsored by the American Humane Association, and many organizations have adoption assistance programs for older adults, including The Pets for the Elderly Foundation. To find a local animal shelter near you, you can search online by using Petfinder’s search tool.

Ultimately, the decision to bring a pet into your home is your own, and by educating yourself beforehand, it can be a very positive life decision. If you or your loved one decides that you are in need of home care to have a safe environment for you or your pet, contact American In-Home Care at 1-844-505-0004 to set up your free, no-obligation consultation. The care providers we refer perform a variety of services including assistance with pet care, homemaking, Alzheimer's Care and After Surgery Care.