Pets for Seniors – Comforting or Confining?

You have probably seen your neighbors walking their pets several times a day, sometimes early in the morning or late at night. When that neighbor is in his or her 70’s, 80’s, or even 90’s, have you ever wondered how they manage to care for a pet? When people are young, it’s easier to get out at all times of the day and night to exercise, visit friends, go out on the town, or walk their pet. But, when people reach their elder years, a number of reasons can keep them from going outdoors on a routine basis.

Some seniors have had cats or dogs for years while others wonder if it’s time to get a pet now that they are retired. There are several reasons why people in their senior years may want to have a pet, including:

Companionship. Pets, especially dogs and cats, provide seniors with companionship when they feel lonely. This is especially applicable to those who do not have family living close by or they are widowed or divorced and on their own.

high five human, dog giving a paw to a handsome man in the house

Comfort. Dogs and cats can be extremely loving and enhance their lives. If they live on their own, they may find it comforting to having a living being to talk to and look after. Pets can give a sense of meaning to anyone’s life. Never underestimate the power of having someone to care for, especially if they have been looking after someone most of their life. Dogs especially will return any love that has been given to them. They make extremely loyal and affectionate pets, as well as providing a sense of security.

There are also several reasons why someone would not want to have a pet in their home.

Commitment. Choosing to have a pet is a big commitment for anyone, especially seniors who may suffer health problems. As they continue to age, they still must take care of any pet they have in their home. Pets often need care day and night, and not everyone will be able to keep that commitment.

Capability. First and foremost, seniors must consider their own heath when it comes to caring for a pet, or getting a new pet after they retire. Questions they need to consider include:

  • How is their health?
  • Could they walk their pet every day; several times a day?
  • Can they provide a pet with the attention it needs?

These are the three key questions that seniors need to ask themselves before deciding to get a pet. If they can barely take care of themself then it is no good having a pet because it will simply add to their stress and make life even more of a struggle for them as they age.

Confinement. Having a pet will remove some of their freedom, whether they like it or not. They cannot go on day trips and leave a dog or cat locked in the house on its own all day. Trips lasting longer than a day are require much more planning to make sure the pet is well taken care of. Neglecting an animal can be detrimental to its health and could lead to prosecution. Therefore the needs of your pet always come first.

President Barack Obama talks with an employee as he selects a bone for Bo, the Obama family dog, during a stop at a PetSmart store in Alexandria, Va., Dec. 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Are you considering replacing a long-time companion, or getting your first pet?

If you are a senior or a family member of a senior, you must consider whether replacing a pet that has died is a wise decision. The most important consideration is whether that pet can be taken care of on a daily basis. Are you able to take your dog or cat on several outings a day? Can you afford the food, shots, and any other items they may need for their care?

If you are a senior who is retiring and now wanting a pet after years of putting off getting a pet because of your work schedule, make sure you understand what you are getting into.

As long as you are prepared for the mess and major upheaval that a new pet can cause then having one may suit your needs. It would be a good idea to do some background research into what owning a pet entails though, especially if you have never had one before. After that, the choice is yours. Just make sure that you are prepared for a life changing experience.

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