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Decisions about Pet Ownership for Seniors

Contributed by: Susan Guy & Martha Owen

 Pets are extremely important in the lives of their owners, especially seniors. In researching this topic, I came across the following article by Matt Newton from Alert Response in Texas, who said we could use it in our story.

Seniors and Their Pets

            If you spend much time around retirement communities, you have probably encountered some spoiled pooches. I love seeing an owner’s eyes light up when they talk about their beloved pets. For me, it is particularly heart-warming when their pet is also aging and enjoying their “retirement.” Pets, especially dogs and cats, provide seniors with companionship that can bring an extraordinary amount of comfort when they begin to feel lonely. This is especially applicable to those seniors who do not have family, have family out of town or are widowed. They can even help ward off depression. However, choosing to have a pet is a big commitment for anyone, especially seniors who may suffer health difficulties in years to come. There are many things to consider before getting a pet, some of which are outlined below.


            When it comes to getting a new pet as a senior, it is important to consider your health. Can you walk it every day? Can you provide it with the attention it needs? These are key considerations that you need to make. If you struggle to take care of yourself, then it is probably not a good idea to get a pet because it will add to your workload. However, if you can take care of yourself, you need to make sure that you can dedicate yourself to another living thing.

Are you home often enough? 

            Having a pet will remove some of your freedom, whether you like it or not. You cannot go on day trips and leave a dog or cat locked in the house on its own all day. Both creatures need a certain degree of stimulation and in the case of a dog, a lot of fuss and attention. Neglecting an animal can be detrimental to its health. In extreme situations, neglect can lead to legal trouble for you. Therefore the pet always needs to come first.

Companionship and Security

            Dogs and cats can be extremely loving and enhance your life to no end. If you live on your own, then you may find it comforting to have a living being to talk to and look after. Pets can give a sense of meaning to anyone’s life. You should never underestimate the power of having someone to care for, especially if you have been looking after someone all your life. Dogs especially will return any love that you give them, tenfold. They make extremely loyal and affectionate pets, as well as providing you with some sort of security. This can also enhance your mental outlook because it can give you an unparalleled sense of safety in your own home.


            As long as you are prepared for the mess and major upheaval that a new pet could cause then having one may suit you. 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.

            Our conclusion is that pet ownership is a very serious decision. It is wonderful but should not be made on an impulse.

            Rescuing a pet can be the best answer for all involved. A house trained and mature pet might make an easier adjustment to a new home than a younger pet. Contact your local agency about rescue pets.

            Also consider that if you have a pet but are not able to provide daily care, such as taking it to the Vet or walking it daily, there are professional caregivers who can provide that support along with other daily activities.

            Article reprinted with permission from Matt Newton and modified slightly by Susan Guy, with Home Instead Senior Care, Fayetteville, NC.