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Team member and resident with dog on walk

How to Find the Perfect Pet for a Senior Loved One

If your senior loved one doesn’t have a pet, they may be missing out on a much-needed companion. 

There are many health benefits to owning a furry friend. 

Seniors with pets to care for are more likely to stay physically active and feel better psychologically. Even enclosed pets, such as guinea pigs and reptiles, can keep your loved one feeling needed and less stressed. 

Research shows you can use pets for therapy and learning, many assisted living communities encourage it, but not all. Seniors with pets also tend to be more active and socialized, boosting mood and overall well-being.

If your senior loved one is transitioning from their life-long home to a new home in a community setting, a pet could help them transition smoothly. 

When the time comes to choose a pet for your elderly loved one, it may be helpful to consider your senior’s energy level, income, and how much maintenance different pets require. 

Best pets for seniors

There are many appropriate pets to choose from, and the perfect pet will vary from senior to senior. A small dog is excellent for seniors who have the strength for daily walks and enjoy being outdoors. 

Not all seniors have the strength or ability for daily walks, though, and it may be difficult for them to care for a dog. Dogs need grooming and can be a lot to keep up with. 

In this case, they may enjoy the company of a cat. Cats are more independent and easier for those not wanting a demanding animal.

You may also need to consider allergies when helping your senior choose a pet. Allergies to cats and dogs are pretty common. 

For seniors in need of a companion but don’t want to worry about walks, allergies, or pets that require daily care, a fish or other type of enclosed animal may be the best option. 

Be sure to ask your loved one their opinion and what they would enjoy most about having a pet.

Dogs for seniors 

If you and your loved one have decided that a dog would be the best fit, there are many great breeds to choose from. 

Some of the best-behaved breeds for seniors include: 

  • Shih Tzu
  • Poodle
  • Maltese
  • Boston Terrier
  • French Bulldog
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Yorkshire Terrier 
  • Pugs
  • Golden Retriever

Many of these breeds are lap dogs, which many seniors like. Dogs can bring joy and laughs to seniors and give them friends to play and interact with. Seniors may enjoy petting, brushing, walking, or playing games with their furry friends. 

It is usually best to choose an adult or senior dog, as puppies can be more difficult for seniors to train and tend to.

Cats for seniors

If your senior loved one wants a pet that can sit on their lap or cuddle but doesn’t want the responsibilities of a dog, cats are great.

Cats offer love, friendship, and companionship but are independent and low-maintenance. Unlike dogs, they don’t require frequent baths, haircuts, or walks outside. 

Some seniors enjoy grooming a pet, as it can be a relaxing and bonding experience between a pet and its owner. Even short-haired cats, typically better for a senior, can be brushed from time to time. 

Another perk that comes with adopting a cat is they’re quiet and affectionate. Even the best-behaved dogs may occasionally bark, which may frighten some seniors. Cat’s noises are quiet and minimal.

Fish for seniors 

A small fish tank could be fun and relaxing. There are colorful fish to choose from, such as beta fish and many creative ways to decorate a tank.

While it’s no secret that pets can reduce stress, most wouldn’t think that fish have many health benefits, but they do. Having an aquarium can reduce stress, improve sleep, lower blood pressure and heart rate, decrease anxiety, and have a calming effect on seniors with Alzheimer’s. 

Even the smallest of pets can make a massive difference.

The best size tanks are 10 gallons or less, as they are easy for a senior to clean and maintain. Many seniors will enjoy feeding their fish daily, but they make automated feeding systems for those who are likely to forget.

Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs are cute, furry animals that take up less space than cats or dogs. They can be a fun option because they are entertaining and enjoy socializing. Most are pretty vocal and don’t sleep often. 

If you choose to get a guinea pig for your senior, you may consider getting two. Since they are such sociable animals, they are happiest when they have a friend to play with. 

While they are much smaller than dogs or cats, they still enjoy being held and cuddled occasionally. For such little pets, they have relatively large personalities.

Enclosed animals 

Many enclosed pets can make excellent companions. Smaller, enclosed animals are usually a great option for seniors that cannot keep up with regular grooming and vet bills. 

Aside from guinea pigs, other small furry friends could include hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits. The only downfall to these little pets is that their cages may be high maintenance. 

While the animals themselves don’t need much care or grooming, their cages become quite a mess if not cleaned out weekly. 

Enclosed pets that need less care include lizards and insects. Leopard geckos don’t need their tank cleaned out frequently and don’t require many feedings. While not all seniors enjoy spiders, they can be fascinating to observe for those who do.

The Kensington Falls Church – Pets are always welcomed!

The Kensington Falls Church recognizes how important pets are to our residents’ mental health and overall well-being. This is why we accept and welcome pets with open, loving arms. 

At our assisted living and memory care communities, Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

Our supportive and compassionate staff will be there for your senior loved ones through all of their ups and downs. Our nurses can offer assistance, 24-hour care, medication administration, insulin injections, and specialized assistance for our high acuity care residents. 

Through Kensington Konnect, caregivers and family members are invited to gain valuable knowledge on their seniors’ health and life. 

Contact us to learn more about our cozy neighborhoods, rehabilitation programs, life-enrichment activities, excellent dining services, and other amenities.

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