Seniors and Pets

Seniors and Pets
Updated on November 11, 2019

Did you know that nearly half of the senior population in the U.S is lonely? Well, yes, because of isolation. With their kids moving away in search of the dollar and then being kept busy all day every day, it’s very normal to stay for months without visiting their aging parents. And you honestly can’t blame them either, they barely have a social life themselves. So if you are one of the 40%, it’s simple, get a pet and join the 85 million Americans who own pets. If you have no clue about what it means to own a pet or you have owned one before but aren’t sure how it will be in your old age, read this article to the end. We have attempted to cover every aspect of your as senior owning a pet. Every possible question you might have, we have answered it.

 

Can you adopt a pet as a senior?

Any person of sound mind can adopt a pet. There are no limitations really just regulations and requirements to be met. Depending on the adoption agency or organization, it may cost you at least $400 to adopt a dog. The cost of adopting a cat is lesser. You can opt to get a free pet but then you will have to incur the costs of spaying or neutering which will come to almost the same cost as adoption cost.

 

How to choose the best pet?

Given your age, you want to look for a pet that allows you to maintain your current lifestyle without so many changes. You want a pet that would fit into your budget, your home space, and your not so active lifestyle. Good thing is that you can find a pet that you can manage. When choosing what pet to get, you will need to consider the following:

 

If you have any form of disability

Dogs and cats are very mobile animals and as such will demand a lot from you physically so if you have any form of disability, a dog will not be the best pet for you. You may want to consider a cat, bird, lizard or a smaller animal that won’t require you to move around a lot to attend to them.

 

The age of the pet

A very young pet, say for example a puppy or a kitten, will require so much care that you may not be able to provide. This also applies to very old pets who might have illnesses that require finances and a lot of care.  Young pets also have so much energy unless you have that much excess energy, you may end up exhausted all day every day. You also do not want to get a very old pet that will not live for longer. Once you get attached to a pet it can be very hard when you lose them to death.

 

If you can really afford a pet

Owning a pet is no cheap affair, at least when you have a fixed income. There are so many costs apart from adoption costs to consider. Things like food, grooming, vet clinics, and toys are just some of the basic expenses. We will look at the costs of pet ownership later in this article, but for now, ask yourself if you really can afford to have a pet. If money is tight, you can consider getting a cheaper pet like a bird or a fish.

 

Do you know how to care for a pet?

If you have had a pet before then it should be easy for you to make a decision since you know what to expect. Unless you have done some good research, caring for a pet will require you to learn quite a bit. You will also need to be ready for a lot of changes to accommodate their routine.

 

Do you have a backup plan for your pet?

You must plan for eventualities. What happens to your pet on those days when you are ill and cannot wake up to prepare their food or worse when you get admitted to the hospital or a rehabilitation facility. Life can be very unpredictable in the old age years and so have a contingency plan for your pet lest it ends up in a shelter.

 

Reasons why you should adopt a pet as a senior

Loneliness is no doubt the biggest reason why any senior would want to keep a pet. The number of seniors who undergo loneliness is noticeably huge. Being lonely regularly leads to stress, depression, poor sleep and eventually poor health. This why you need to get yourself a loving pet.

Companionship

A pet will offer that needed companionship to kill loneliness. The feeling of having someone else (even though not human) with you at all times is good enough for your emotional being.

Pets can help ease the pain

This is not quite literally of course but having a pet can help you take off your mind from the pain and agony you are in. A study by Pain Magazine in 2012, showed that, for patients with chronic pain, having a therapy dog can significantly reduce pain and emotional distress. The magic is all in the pet’s eye. When you look straight into a pet’s eye for at least 5 minutes, your brain goes into the feel-good mood and releases the happy mood hormones, oxytocin.

Pets will keep you in a routine

It is a good thing as you will constantly be up and about doing something. Your day is rather planned from morning to evening and this gives you a sense of purpose and direction. Appreciate that you have to wake up feed your pet, walk them out, play with them and groom them every day. Walking up and not having anything planned for the day can easily lead to depression especially if you had a very structured life before old age.

Pets can also improve your social life

As you go out to the clinic, or park every day, you are bound to meet people and interact with them. With time you will once again have an active social life thanks to your pet. A study revealed that 40% of pet owners claimed that their pets made them interact with other people.

Pets will keep you active all-day

As a senior, you are required to have at least 2.5 hours of light to moderate aerobic activity. This can be walking, swimming, jogging or any other form of low impact aerobics. Having a pet means you will have to move around the housekeeping up with their daily routine and this keeps you physically active. At the end of the day, you will have met the required 2.5 hours without even noticing. When you are physically active, your cholesterol is in check, your heart health in check, and your overall body health is in check too.

 

Benefits of adopting a pet

In addition to a pet being a great companion in these lonely years, you will also have a sense of purpose and responsibility. Knowing that your pet is dependent on you for their basic needs will make you feel important and needed. Which is a good feeling for every human, anyway. It’s funny how when you are young you try to run away from responsibility but look forward to it when you are older. Isn’t life just one big circus?

Pets, and especially dogs, will give you a sense of security. You will feel much safer knowing you have a dog around that can alert you in case of any danger.

Other benefits of owning a pet include:

  • Overcoming the feeling of loneliness, anxiety, and depression that comes from staying alone
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Boost your immune system
  • Increased levels of physical activity
  • Staying organized through a daily routine

 

What are the risks of adopting a pet?

Even though owning a pet is beneficial, it can also be disadvantageous. For starters, you can easily trip on food bowls and pet beds if you are not careful. Let’s not even mention how physically demanding a pet can be. You have to clean up after them, take them out for walks if you have a dog, groom them and routinely take them for their check-ups. Even though physical activity is beneficial it can be tiring as well as hazardous. A study showed that there has been an increased number of injuries related to seniors walking their dogs. In fact, the number has doubled between the years 2004 and 2017.

With a fixed income, owning a pet can be very expensive. You might be forced to forego some of your necessities just to cater to your pet.  Rover.com approximates that you may spend at least  $153 a month on average on a dog. This translates to $1,836 a year. Quite a huge amount, right? There is also the possibility of you contracting infectious diseases and catching parasites from your pet. Pets carry with them bacteria, fungi, and viruses that can affect your already compromised immunity. This can really put your health at risk.

Because of the attachment, you will have with your put, you may have a hard time accepting to move into a care home even though that is the best option for you at that time. Even accepting to be admitted to a hospital will be problematic if you have no one to leave your pet with.

 

How to care for a pet as a senior?

There are many ways you can creatively use to make caring for your pet easier. Here are a few tips:

Invest in automatic feeders and water dispensers.

These will save you from several trips that you will make going to refill their bowls. They come in different sizes, colors, and shapes.

Partner with a vet who does house calls.

It is easier to have a vet come to your house whenever you need them than you have to take your dog to the clinic.

Ask for help when you need it.

There are those days when your body just decides to go on strike and the last thing you want is having to clean up after your dog’s poop. During such days, it may help to ask for help from your family (those who live nearby)  or even your neighbors

Hire a pet sitter.

If you feel your energy is down low and you are not to take care of your dog, get the services of a pet sitter or a professional pet caregiver.

 

What are the costs of owning a pet for a senior?

Wow, owning a dog is not a cheap affair one bit as we mentioned earlier. Let’s look at some practical figures for owning a dog and a cat since these are the most expensive and most popular pets. Of course, these costs will vary, they may be less or more depending on several factors but the actual costs won’t be any further from these.]

One time costsCosts for the first year
Total costs: dog – $455 / cat – $360Total annual costs: dog – $770 / cat – $710
Spaying or neutering: dog – $200 / cat – $150Pet food: dog – $130/ cat – $150
First medical exam: dog – $70 / cat – $130Annual medical check up: dog – $240 / cat – $120
Pet collar and leash: dog – $35 / cat – $10Litter: cat – $200
Litter box: cat – $20Treats and toys: dog – $70 / cat – $40
Scratch post for cats: $20License: dog – $20
Crate: dog – $50 / cat – $30Pet health insurance: dog – $250 / cat – $160
Training: dog – $100Miscellaneous: dog – $60 / cat – $40

 

One-time pet expenses

From this report, you can see that while it is cheaper to own a cat than it is to own a dog, both costs are significant. It will cost you nothing less than $700 annually to keep a pet and at least $500 every year after. These costs could go higher depending on the brand of food you buy, unexpected medical expenses, travel expenses, and pet sitting services should you require some. Alternatively, you could opt for cheaper pets like fish that could cost you $40 annually without the initial aquarium set up or the bird that could cost you $200.

 

Best pets for seniors

When we talk of pets, for most people it is either a cat or dog. Well, rightfully so, these are the most popular pets but there are lots more. Let’s look at some of the best low maintenance pets that you can keep.

Fish

The best thing about fish pets is that they require very minimal space and care. Once you set up the aquarium and its filtration system, all you are left with is feeding and changing the water in the tank for the most part. You will love watching the fish swim in the aquarium, very therapeutic.

Parrots

Parrots are easy to care for and are less demanding physically. They make quite a great companion. And the fact that they can learn words and phrases means you can “hold a conversation” with them.

Lizards

The best lizard type to keep as a pet is a gecko lizard. They are smaller and therefore require a smaller tank to live in. Besides being space savers, they require very minimal care.

Rats

If you are looking to be entertained all day, get two or three rats or mice. They are very social and love to play with each other which is a good thing because you don’t have to keep them company.

Gerbils

These are very social animals that are fun to be with and watch. They require very minimal space as well as minimal care.

 

What to do when you can’t fully take care of a pet?

If it gets to a point that you can no longer take care of your pets actively as before for one reason or the other then you can consider these instead of giving them up for adoption.

Ask your family to step in

Knowing how much the pet means to you, your family will be happy to step in when you need help. Call your grandchildren to come pet sit for you and help in cleaning up. You, however, have to take them through your pet’s routine.

Call a pet sitter

Look for a licensed pet sitting service around your neighborhood and have their number on your speed dial. You can make arrangements for regular or random visits for when you need to maybe leave your home for a few days.

Seek a pet caregiver

There are caregivers who will look after you and your pet. Most chances are you will also be needing someone to take care of you when you can’t look after your pet.

 

Conclusion

There are so many benefits of owning a pet and even though there are risks involved, the benefits take the win. You might first consider if you are capable of taking care of one, both physically and financially. If you are then why not. And if you find that owning a pet is way too demanding for you either physically or financially, you could consider liaising with pet therapy services. They can bring you a trained pet dog or cat for a 30 to 60 minutes session every day or as per your preference. Though you may not get as many benefits as you would if you lived with one, it is far better than not having access to one at all.

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