Do Pets Make Good Companions for Seniors?

Although many people believe that pets make good companions for their aging parents, not everyone agrees. We decided to look into the advantages and disadvantages of seniors having a pet in their home. When most people think of having pets in their home, they usually mean cats or dogs. But, there are other pets that might be of interest to seniors.

Many people believe that seniors with pets live longer, stay healthy longer and are happier because it places the senior in the role of caregiver, and gives them someone to live for. The companionship can bring closeness between the senior and their pet that will make up for losing a valued loved one such as a spouse. Having a pet also helps them remain more alert as they age.

Senior gentleman and his dog sitting on ground in park

What Pet is Best for Your Loved One?

The most popular pets include dogs, cats, bunny rabbits, and parrots. The parrots can be taught to speak, and some seniors might enjoy training them.

There is a saying that “Dogs have owners, cats have staff.” Cats are much more persnickety and want to be waited on. Dogs do not often act that way.

The least popular pets are turtles, gold fish, and certain birds. The reasons for the lack of popularity are that turtles and gold fish is that they are not warm and friendly. They do not return love or nurturing to their owners. Birds quite often are too noisy and messy for seniors to deal with, especially as they get older.

In list form, here are the main pros and con’s regarding whether seniors should have a pet:

Pros

  • Offer unconditional love
  • Pets are eager to please
  • Offer mutual affection
  • Comfort and companionship
  • Seniors stay healthier and happier
  • Replaces lost loved ones
  • Provide affection
  • Love to cuddle and talk to their pet
  • Someone (something) to care about
  • Distraction from self and problems
  • Improves health
  • Increase opportunity to remain active

Cons

  • Risk of disease
  • Could trip over pet, toys, or feeding dish Increase cost of food, shots, accessories, etc.
  • Extra work for those who have trouble getting around
  • Pets are not always allowed in certain facilities such as assisted living. Most nursing homes are now allowing pets or at least a couple of pets for residents.
  • Death of pet can be devastating
  • Friends and family may or may not be willing to help with caring for the pet

Also on the negative side is that pets (depending on species) need to be fed, walked, given clean water, groomed, litter box cleaned, and a place to sleep set up somewhere in the home.

There are two schools of thought on whether the pet should be younger or older when the senior gets it. The younger pets will be much more active and can cause a lot of problems around the house while they are being trained. The older pet will often already have been trained, but will die sooner which will cause the aging senior distress.

If you believe your loved one would benefit from having a pet, talk to them to make sure they are willing to care for the pet. If they are, have a great time shopping the pet shops or looking for the perfect pet for your parent.

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