There is no question that loneliness is one of the most common problems faced by seniors. It’s a serious problem too; loneliness can lead to increased stress, more frequent use of alcohol or tobacco and a number of medical problems. Unfortunately, the isolation made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic has made this problem all the worse.
Adopting a pet may offer seniors at least a partial solution to the problem of loneliness. Having a pet gives seniors both companionship and a purpose in life. Pets depend on their human companions for care, making a senior feel needed. Some pets provide increased security and the opportunity for exercise and social interaction. Seniors benefit physically and emotionally from having a pet companion, and the new adoptee finds care and a loving home. It can be a win-win situation, but there are some things to think about before jumping in.
The first consideration is commitment. A senior must understand that pet ownership involves a long-term obligation to provide basic care for the animal. If this is likely to become a burden, perhaps you should reconsider. Think about the future needs of this pet. Will you be able to afford food, shelter, veterinary care and grooming when needed? Do you have the physical strength or stamina needed for certain types of animals, such as large dogs?
Consider the advantages of adopting a mature animal. Young kittens and puppies may be adorable, but they also require house training; that can be a problem. If you are considering a young animal, think this over. Are you willing to devote the time and effort needed to house train a young animal? Large dogs require a good deal of space, and they can be difficult to handle. Think about the fully-grown size of that cute little puppy before you make a long-term commitment.
A second consideration is expense. Animal shelter adoptions are not expensive, but understand that this is a commitment to continuing care. Shelter personnel may be able to offer helpful advice on which pets are best suited to the needs of a particular senior. If you are considering a purchase from a pet breeder, this can be costly. Remember also that breeder dogs and cats are almost certain to find a home, but you may well be saving the life of a shelter animal by adopting it.
Think ahead and match the pet to your needs and abilities. The ideal pet for a given senior will provide companionship while being well within the senior’s ability to care for it. Those who are up to a serious physical responsibility or seek an incentive for exercise may want to look at a dog, while others will be better served by choosing a cat or bird.
Most people will think first of a cat or a dog, and these are the most common animals found in shelters or raised by professional breeders. Some people may want to also consider birds like parakeets or finches, but many experts do not recommend parrots for seniors, as they require more attention and space. Aquarium fish fascinate some people and there are those who can even love a reptile like a gecko.
It’s hard to find statistics about the most common pets owned by seniors. Dogs are the biggest group in the general population, but cats may be better suited to the needs of many seniors since they require less attention and are less expensive to keep.
As mentioned above, the staff in animal shelters may offer good advice about individual situations. They have overseen hundreds of pet adoptions and seen some returns also. They remember the success stories and also the dogs who were too large or the cats who scratched too much.
Here is some information and a few links that may help you find the perfect pet companion. Many of these sites feature pictures of pets available for adoption today!
- Adopt A Pet.com – Adopt the Perfect Pet from more than 17,000 animal shelters & rescues nationwide.
- Seminole County Animal Services 232 Eslinger Way, Sanford, FL 32773 A shelter helping to find loving homes for dogs, cats, rabbits and small animals. Phone 407-665-5208
- Orange County Animal Services 2769 Conroy Road Orlando, FL 32839
- SPCA of Central Florida Phone: 407-351-7722
- Halifax Humane Society- Serving Volusia County 2364 LPGA Blvd. Daytona Beach, FL 32124 Phone: 386-274-4703
- Humane Society of Lake County 16435 McKinley Road Umatilla, FL 32784 Phone: 352-589-7400