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September 29, 2016

Choosing a Pet for Older Adults: 5 Tips

To sum it up in a sentence:

“If [pet ownership] were a drug, it would be marketed tomorrow.” Roger Lavelle, veterinarian and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s Veterinary Clinical Centre

But how do you know which cat or dog to get for your aging parent? Or, if you are aging and interested in adopting a new furry friend, what’s the best choice? Here are five tips for choosing a pet for older adults.

Tip No. 1

You may already know if you want a cat or a dog but, if you don’t, consider the benefits and challenges of each carefully. If you love to go away for the weekend, a cat may make more sense, since you can leave behind fresh food and water, and a clean litter box and be assured your cat will be OK. Cats are typically happy staying indoors and don’t need as much interactive play with humans. A dog needs someone to take it outside and usually wants more interaction with its owner. But if you like to travel with a pet or enjoy the exercise and interaction involved with owning a pet, a dog is typically the better choice.

Tip No. 2

NextAvenue.org suggests that you choose a pet with a personality compatible with your own. For example, if you love to walk a dog, the couch potato type won’t make sense for you. If you love to cuddle with a cat, some are more aloof or independent than others, so you want to look for more affectionate ones. If you love to take photographs of your pets, shy ones may not be the best choice for you.

Tip No. 3

Consider checking out local shelters for animals that will make wonderful pets. You’ll be rescuing an animal, probably at the fraction of the cost of buying from a breeder or for-profit company. Note: If you want a purebred pet, you may need to wait a longer amount of time if you commit to choosing from a shelter, especially if you have an exact breed in mind. Or you may need to expand the geographical reach of the shelters you’re visiting.

Tip No. 4

Some breeds tend to be better pets for older adults than others. You can read the entire NextAvenue.org article for details, but here is the list:

Dogs include the Boston terrier, Pugs, Greyhounds, Cocker Spaniels and the Chihuahua. Cats include the Russian Blue and Ragdoll, Persians, Himalayans and the Manx. Meanwhile, SunriseSeniorLiving.com offers more dog breeds to consider: the Beagle, Poodle, Corgi and Pomeranian.

Tip No. 5

Consider adopting an older animal. While kittens and puppies can melt an animal lover’s heart, an older pet can be a better match for older adults. They’ve already been trained and, if you’re interested in a dog, you don’t need to worry about the size as much because they “typically have slowed down a step or two.” Shelters are often full of older dogs waiting for someone to love them.

You can find more tips from the American Humane Association.

The benefits of pet ownership are numerous – and, if you’d like to review them, take a look at these two blog posts in our archives:

Pet Companionship With Older Adults Guide

Healthy aging is hard on your own. Kendal at Home can help you age well and enjoy your retirement.

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