Are You Ready to Find Love with a Four-Legged Friend?
If you've ever experienced the gift of pet guardianship, you know there is nothing else like it. Pets bring loyalty, laughter, playfulness, and a sense of purpose to their family's life. They take you for walks, cuddle in your lap when you're having a hard day, and keep you entertained with their amusing antics.
For seniors especially, pets can benefit health, combat loneliness, and improve relationships with others. Whether you've been a lifetime pet parent, or pet guardianship is a new experience you're considering, there are many wonderful animals with different personalities and care needs that are looking for a great new home!
What are some benefits that a pet could bring to my life?
- Good Health: We've heard it a million times – pets are good for us physically and mentally. It has been proven that pets reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate for pet guardians of all ages.
- Activity: Pets need walking, feeding, grooming and fresh litter, and they need plenty of playing and petting. All of these activities require some activity from their guardians, which in turn can help keep them physically healthy.
- Companionship and love: There is no greater gift than unconditional love. Pets can often act as a great companion for seniors who may not have family or friends close by to act as a support system.
- Interaction: Pets encourage their owners to get out of the house – whether taking the dog for a walk, picking up cat food from the store, or taking your dog to a training class, these small acts can combat against depression and loneliness, and expand your group of friends.
- Conversation: It's no surprise many people talk to their pets. Why? Because pets never judge, they only listen and console.
- Stick to a routine: Pets can help seniors by giving them a sense of purpose, and a reason to engage in everyday activities such as going for walks, going to the store, visiting the veterinarian, etc.
Once you decide to take on the responsibility of pet parenting, you might be thinking, "where do I start"?
Here are a few helpful suggestions to consider before adopting:
- Cat, Dog or "Small and Furry"?
- Cats make wonderful pets for senior citizens – they are calming, easily cared for, and can provide great companionship, without the same level of training and exercise that dogs require. Additionally, more senior living facilities allow cats than dogs.
- Dogs can also make great pets for seniors. Do keep in mind that dogs require regular exercise and attention; so make sure to consider whether or not this is something you can accommodate.
- Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils can also be great pets. They require less of a space, time and financial commitment than many other animals, but provide the same great companionship!
- Age of Pet: Older pets can be a great fit for seniors – they are usually calmer, easier to handle, and already trained. While they are certainly adorable, kittens and puppies require a significant amount of care and training time.
- Lifestyle: If you feel you may need to move into a senior living facility in the future, make sure that you have researched pet-friendly care facilities, or have designated a responsible and willing family member who may be willing to care for your pet in the case of an emergency. Keep in mind that there are more cat-friendly housing facilities, than dog-friendly.
- Financial Commitment: Please keep in mind that pets require food, bowls, litter, collars/leashes, toys, annual vaccinations and regular veterinary care. While the reward of pet ownership is tremendous, please make sure you're able to financially support a pet companion at this time in your life.
If you're not ready to make the long-term commitment of being a pet parent, you may also want to consider fostering an animal. Many animal welfare organizations and rescue groups are always in need of responsible, caring foster parents to provide short-term, in-home care for animals that may need a little extra time and care before being adopted. Many organizations will provide the supplies and training needed – you just provide the love!
If you are going to bring a pet into your life, please consider adopting from an animal shelter or rescue organization. Animals who find themselves in shelters are often there through no fault of their own – perhaps their owner passed away, or a job loss resulted in a change in lifestyle that couldn't accommodate the costs of pet care. Despite their change in circumstances, these animals are loving, genuine and filled with hope for a second chance. Changing the life of a homeless animal is an incredible feeling, and a wonderful gift to give.