We love pets, and in the US more than 70% of households own a pet. In fact, over 55% of adults older than 50 and have pets. Owning a pet can help battle senior mobility limitations, health issues and low energy that can keep them isolated. Seniors that live alone can succor to social isolation which can lead to loneliness, depression and poor physical health. Companion pets for lonely seniors can literally be life saver for these folks.
Seniors and Pets
Pets can contribute to the well-being of seniors. Having a pet can helped seniors enjoy life, feel loved, reduce stress, and feel more inclined to be more physically active (walking a dog, or playing with a cat). Pets can also help with safety, protection and creating and maintaining routine.
Pets are great, but seniors should consider whether a pet fits their lifestyle, their home and capabilities. Seniors who use wheelchairs or are confined to bed might have difficulty with any pet that requires a lot of maintenance.
Things to consider:
- How long will you have this pet?
- Are you capable of handling this pet for the long term?
- Is the cost of a pet manageable (food, medical care, training)?
- Can your home accommodate a larger pet?
- Before heading to a pet store, keep in mind the many pets in shelters. 6.3 million pets are placed into shelters every year, and 4.1 million are adopted.
70% of pet owners are dog owners. We all love dogs, but they need a lot of care and exercise. Some dogs are also more likely to trigger allergies.
Some of the best breeds for seniors include:
- Pug – These small dogs are affectionate and playful, requiring less exercise, but they can be stubborn.
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel – These small dogs are affectionate, easily trained and love being with their owners.
- English Bulldog – These dogs are low-activity pets, and are shy and quiet, but need regular grooming.
- French Bulldog – Like their English cousins, they’re quiet and don’t need a lot of exercise, but need grooming.
- Bichon Frise – These small dogs have more grooming needs but don’t shed too much and have moderate energy.
- Boston Terrier – These dogs are friendly, well-mannered, affectionate, have a lot of energy and are easy to groom.
- Miniature Schnauzer – These dogs are energetic and playful, obedient and eager to please, but can be vocal.
- Pomeranian – These perky little dogs are energetic, love attention and need regular grooming, but don’t need too much exercise.
- Poodle – These intelligent dogs adapt well to different environments and don’t shed much but need a good amount of exercise and grooming.
- Yorkshire Terrier – These tiny dogs don’t shed, don’t need too much exercise and don’t need too much grooming.
Cats come in second with pet owners, according to the APPA survey, at 43%. Cats are more independent and need a little less looking after, but they have their demands, too. Cats need space and a warm lap to occupy.
Some of the best cat breeds for seniors include:
- Chartreux – They are calm and playful, making them a good match for seniors.
- Himalayan – These cats are gentle and calm, preferring to live in a calm environment, which makes them a good match for older pet owners.
- Persian – These are calm, easygoing cats that love a quiet atmosphere that a one-person home can give them.
- American Shorthair – These cats are people-oriented and love to cuddle, which makes them a good companion for seniors.
- Birman – This is an affectionate, gentle and intelligent cat that loves companionship, has a playful side and is low-maintenance.
- British Shorthair – These fuzzy cats are good-natured and playful as kittens but mellow as they age.
- Ragdoll – This cat is very laid back, loving and calm, with a tendency to follow you around.
- Russian Blue – These cats are friendly, affectionate and loyal to their pet family.
- American Bobtail – These cats are affectionate and don’t like to be left alone, bonding with their humans.
They may be easier to care for, but setting up an aquarium may take some time and effort. 14.7% saying they have either a freshwater or saltwater fish. They need only food and a good tank cleaning now and then. The top expense will be the equipment for its living space.
Here are a few of the best low-maintenance fish:
- Goldfish – This is the most common pet fish, with the fancy-tailed varieties considered the most attractive. They can be a little more messy so might need more water maintenance.
- Guppy – These fish love company, so have an environment large enough for a few. They come in a variety of colors.
- Molly – This hardy and easy-to-keep fish is a live bearer, so there is a chance that any molly you adopt will be female and pregnant. You might have several fish before you know it.
- Betta – These fish, also called Japanese or Siamese fighting fish, are lovely and small with flowing tails. They are a clean fish so require a change of water less often.
- Dwarf Puffer Fish – These tiny freshwater fish are relatively inexpensive. They keep an eye on their owners, like bettas.
- Tetra – These consist of many subspecies of colorful fish. Tetras should be kept in groups, about five or six per species.
Compared to dogs and cats, birds can be relatively low maintenance. Many never leave the cage, which makes them a good option for seniors with mobility issues. The singing, twittering and talking of birds can be a therapeutic comfort to seniors who are otherwise alone.
- Lovebird – These pets chatter quietly, so they make a good choice if you have apartment neighbors. They can be intelligent and personable, but nippy and opinionated.
- Canary – These birds are considered calming, with softer songs and less vocalization from the females compared with the males. They are active, friendly and social and can be kept in their cages permanently.
- Cockatiel – These whistling, singing birds are medium sized. They can also learn to mimic sounds around the house, so don’t be surprised if the “telephone” starts ringing.
- Parakeet – These birds have tiny voices and can be taught words and basic tricks. They’re active, intelligent and social. They are affectionate to humans and require more out-of-cage attention.
- Zebra Finch – These quiet birds are sociable and active, but should not be allowed out of their cages. They prefer to be kept in flocks of two to four.
- Additional Companion Options
Rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice and ferrets can have short lifespans or can live as long as dogs and cats. They all require routine care, food, company and protection. Some of these animals may be nocturnal so won’t make as good a companion during the day.
Consider whether there are other pets in your household that can be a threat to these small animals.
No matter what pet you choose for your companion, getting a medical alert system with MedGuard Alert is sure to keep you safe. We provide emergency medical alert systems that allow you to connect with medical professionals from anywhere. Call today to learn more about our systems that start at just $1 a day. You may qualify for additional discounts through Medicaid.
Call today. 1-800-716-1433