We often hear that dogs are man’s best friend and cat lovers may argue the same!

Pets do play a vital role in the daily lives of humans and for the elderly who often live alone, their role may be pivotal at times in the decision-making process when confronted with questions regarding if and when a senior should accept more care and possibly move out of his or her home. Perhaps the following pros and cons of seniors owning pets will help you, or a senior that you love, decide whether you will adopt that new pet or not.

Pros

Companionship: Pets can truly fill a void for seniors who are lonely. If a senior has become isolated due to no longer being able to drive, or a dwindling social group, a dog or cat (and possibly other small animals) can give a senior a responsive and often engaging presence in their home. The pet needs care and this often makes an elderly person feel useful as they are still “needed” and of course appreciated in return.

Safety: This particularly pertains to dogs, but could also be for cats as well. Pets often times become protective of their owners and use their keen senses to warn and/or protect from threats like unwanted visitors or smoke. Dogs especially will often frighten an intruder which also keeps the person safer. There have also been instances when a dog or cat went to seek help for an owner who is hurt which would be wonderful in the case of a needy senior. 

Exercise: Having a pet may promote exercise for its owner. Whether they are taking their dog on a walk, just letting it out to go to the bathroom, or cleaning the litter box, the pet promotes exercise and movement.

Cons

Safety: This type of safety is different than the kind mentioned above. Often times pets require the use of a leash to go for a walk, or in and out of a house or apartment. For seniors who have balance problems, this poses a huge threat as being pulled down by an animal is a very real concern. There is also the risk of falling in inclement weather if the senior has to take the animal outside. Lastly, most animals that elderly people own are small. Having a small creature staying right near one’s feet is extremely dangerous as we age and begin to lose some of our reflexes and balance.

Limits Housing Options: When we age, we often need to transition to senior communities outside of our own home. Not all communities welcome pets, and if they do, there is usually a restriction on their size and breed. This sometimes causes seniors, who need extra support, to stay in unsafe situations because they are emotionally attached to a pet, but they cannot afford or find a facility where the pet is also welcome.

Ability to Care for the Pet: Many aging individuals begin to have memory and/or cognitive issues. They may begin to neglect some of their own care which could lead to the neglect of the pet. There may be a concern with how they will get to the store to purchase food or get a ride to the vet. Sometimes pets are neglected simply because a senior cannot remember to feed and water them on a regular basis, or the opposite may be true- they overfeed the pet due to lack of ability to remember when the pet last ate.

In an effort to provide the best quality of life for yourself or a senior you love, please consider these points and use them when determining if a pet is a good addition to the home.