(Health Secrets) Studies have shown that seniors who own pets are more sociable, less depressed, get more exercise, and take better care of themselves overall. A senior citizen living alone craves companionship and responsibility. A pet can fill this void, while providing a lasting and loving bond.
If you are a senior looking for a pet companion, it’s important to choose carefully. The best pets for seniors are compatible with the individual. In other words, the pet should match the mobility, lifestyle, physical health, and cognitive ability of the person who will be caring for it.
Let’s take a look at four of the best pets for seniors:
Dogs make great pets for seniors because they become so in tune with their masters. They love unconditionally, and don’t ask for much in return. As long as they are given affection, daily walks, food, water, and a warm place to sleep, you’ll have a faithful companion for life.
For a senior, not just any dog will do. Especially if you have limited mobility, or live in a small apartment. The best place to get a dog is at a shelter, or a rescue group. Adult dogs are an ideal choice because they are already housebroken and trained. Many younger people will pass over these dogs in favor of puppies. This is where you can come in and give an unwanted dog a good home.
Best breeds for seniors:
- Mixed-Breed Mutt
An older, mixed-breed dog from the pound can sometimes prove to be the best pet for seniors. They’re already trained, and tend to have less health problems than their purebred counterparts. The best way to select a dog from a pound is to see which dog seems most interested in you. Spend some time getting to know him or her before deciding. When you find each other, you’ll know.
- Miniature Poodle
Miniature poodles are active, lively, fun to be around, and very affectionate. This small dog is ideal for the senior who is home most of the time and ready to walk, interact, and play at a moment’s notice.
This small dog is affectionate and loyal to one master. They make good watchdogs, but tend not be good around children. If you often have grandchildren coming to visit, this might not be the right dog for you. The Maltese also needs lots of attention, so she cannot be left on her own for extended periods of time.
- Bichon Frise
These cuddly little balls of fluff are friendly, affectionate, and have stable and fun personalities. The ‘Yorkie’ is not a “yippie” breed, and will be content with apartment living, so long as she can get some outside exercise and indoor play. This dog needs daily grooming and will need to be washed frequently to keep the dirt off her white fur.
- Yorkshire Terrier
If she’s a ‘silky’, your beautiful Yorkshire Terrier will need daily grooming to keep her long locks smooth and shiny. Yorkies also come in the ‘soft coat’ and ‘wiry’ variety, and their coats will not need quite as much upkeep. She’s happy with apartment life, and will be content to sit in your lap and snuggle. She also makes a good little alarm, and will alert you to strangers walking too closely to her territory (her territory including you).
- Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier is a great watchdog, and comes in three different weight categories: Under 15 pounds, 15 to under 20 pounds, and 20 to 25 pounds. The Boston is very affectionate and loyal and quite content to be a couch potato as long as he gets his daily exercise.
- Golden Retriever
If you’d prefer a larger breed, you can’t go wrong with the Golden Retriever. Loyal, friendly, gentle, and able to get along with most humans and animals, he’s the perfect companion for someone entering their golden years. If you’re looking for a dog primarily for protection, however, the Golden is not for you. He’s much more likely to lick an intruder than attack him.
- Retired Greyhound
A retired Greyhound is used to small places, having been kept in a crate most of her life. She’ll be content to dwell with you in a small apartment, but will need to be walked at least once a day. She won’t bark much, but she does have a very strong prey instinct. This means if you have other small animals in the house, or children visiting frequently, she might not be the best choice for you.
Another great pet for a senior is a service dog. If there are health or mobility issues, a trained service dog can offer companionship while keeping the senior independent and living at home.
Cats are ideal pets for the elderly, especially if the responsibility of owning and training a dog proves a bit too much. Kittens are cute, but they may be too much for a senior with mobility issues or failing eyesight to keep up with.
An adult, house-trained cat selected from a rescue center is your best option. They are usually more docile, and content to entertain themselves. Though they will come to you for affection on their own terms.
All a cat needs is a clean litter box, food, water, a scratching post, a few toys, and a place where she can sit and watch the goings-on outside. This can keep her occupied and entertained for hours.
- Small Birds
Another ideal pet for someone entering their twilight years is a small bird. Parakeets and cockatiels fill a quiet apartment with a bit of movement and life. They require little space, and can be trained to whistle, speak, and climb on an owner’s hand or finger, if desired. They can be quite affectionate, and often enjoy gentle scratches beneath their head feathers.
Fish are the most low-maintenance pets for seniors. Just watching them swim around can be both entertaining and relaxing. All you need is a small aquarium that has the ability to pump out waste, and keep the water temperature and pH level stable. Goldfish are hearty, and can live with other Goldfish of the same type. However, they don’t do well if placed in the same tank with a Fantail or a Black Moor, for example.
A Betta, or a Siamese Fighting Fish, is another good choice. One solo male can be content living in a small fishbowl in a warm area. Two males can never be placed in the same bowl or tank as they will fight to the death. Females are also content to live alone, but can be safely placed in a group of five or more. Two Betta females living alone together will fight incessantly until one of them floats to the top.
A note of caution: Caring as your intentions may be, it is never a good idea to pick out a pet for someone else. Instead, talk the prospect over with your senior friend or family member, and make it an adventure you embark on together!
A pet can provide warmth, security, companionship, and entertainment for a senior who is looking for a living being to care for. Pet ownership in seniors has been linked to lower blood pressure, and a tendency to live in the “now”, rather than focusing on the future. Once you learn this from your pet, the “what-ifs” will start to fade into the background and you’ll enjoy each new day as it comes.