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What Are The Best Pets For Seniors?

January 31st, 2023

Owning a pet is one of life’s great joys and there are many animals that make great pets for the elderly. Sharing your time with a pet means you have a constant companion that will help you to stay active, prevent loneliness and keep your brain busy too. In fact, some pet owners even enjoy reading aloud to their pets as a way to bond and maintain an active mind. 

While there may be certain things to consider before becoming a senior pet owner, age is certainly no reason not to. Here we take a look at the best pets for seniors, including low maintenance pets and the positives of pet ownership.

The Best Pet Dogs for Seniors

The best pet dogs for seniors tend to come down to the specific breed. Choosing a typically relaxed breed like a Shih Tzu or a French Bulldog means they will fit into your current lifestyle and routine with little fuss. These smaller dogs also require less walking, so are ideal if mobility is an issue.

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If you’re a senior looking for a more active dog breed to keep you fit, then a King Charles Spaniel or West Highland White Terrier will enjoy lots of walks and days out exploring. When it comes to larger breeds, the best pet dog for seniors has got to be a Golden Retriever. With their natural intelligence and love of cuddles, there’s a reason they’re one of the nation’s favourite dogs.

Are Cats Good for Seniors?

Cats are very low maintenance pets for the elderly. The average cat sleeps anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day and, when they are awake, will easily occupy themselves or head off outdoors. If you do want to enjoy playing with your pet, then cats are naturally curious and love to pounce and chase small toys.

You’ll need to spot clean a cat’s litter tray around once a day and fully change their litter once a week. Adult cats will need feeding roughly two to three times a day depending on their weight. A vet will be able to quickly check their weight for you and tell you the appropriate amount of food for their individual needs.
Other than this, cats really are quite self sufficient. They do love lots of chin tickles and to curl up on your lap too. A study by the University of Minnesota even showed that owning a cat can reduce the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases. Their playful nature, low maintenance needs and love of cuddles is why cats make great pets for seniors. 

The Most Low Maintenance Pets For The Elderly

Having a furry friend can mean extra housework vacuuming up their hair. Dogs will require exercise and cats aren’t ideal if their access to the outdoors is limited. Luckily, there are lots of other animals that make brilliant low maintenance pets for the elderly. 

1. Fish

As well as requiring much less time and effort, fish also take up less space, simply requiring a clean and adequately sized tank. Traditionally, goldfish have been considered the easiest fish to own but there are lots of other breeds that are very easy to look after. Zebrafish are striking to look at and thrive well in cooler temperatures, so you can keep tank heating at the lower end of the scale. Guppies are another beautifully decorated fish and are known for their easy going, adaptable nature.

One thing to consider is that different fish will need different water temperatures and pH balances. So, if you want a few different types of fish in your tank, make sure they can all thrive in the same conditions. A good pet shop can easily advise on this. 

Alongside the fish themselves being great pets for seniors, it’s also enjoyable to decorate your tank with coloured corals and decorations, which keep fish entertained and brighten up your home.

2. Birds

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Birds are sociable creatures and so make wonderful companions. They are also inexpensive to feed, as they only need small amounts of food. For these reasons, birds easily fit the bill when it comes to the best pets for seniors. 

It may not be wise to take on a parrot or macaw if you’re looking for a low maintenance pet, but birds like budgies, canaries, and cockatiels are an ideal choice. These birds come in lots of lovely colours, are easy to train, and don’t need high levels of social interaction. Of course, you will need to let your bird out to exercise and they do enjoy affection and some socialising but, on the whole, are very straightforward pets who won’t demand too much from their elderly owners.

Bird owners would need to invest in an appropriate cage. If you’re choosing one of the breeds above, then you would only need a small cage, taking up little room but providing hours of amusement and even some birdsong.

3. Tortoise

A tortoise is perhaps one of the easiest pets to care for and, therefore, would be the best pet for seniors who prefer minimum maintenance. 

Tortoises do best in outdoor environments, so will need space to get out in the fresh air and take in some sunshine. For this reason, they are well-suited to elderly pet owners who have a garden and enjoy being outside themselves. They will happily sleep in an outdoor enclosure too, meaning no mess in your home. 

Tortoises are not cuddly or affectionate animals and so don’t need hours of play or fuss. They are quiet creatures and fascinating to watch and, depending on the breed, are only small. The amount of food they eat tends to be in proportion to the size of their shell, and mostly comprises plants or some insects. Each breed will have its own needs and preferences, so do your homework beforehand. 

Owning a tortoise does not take as much effort as many other animals, and yet means you could have many happy years of pet ownership and friendship ahead.

Pet Therapy for the Elderly

Any pet owner will understand the love, warmth and happiness a pet brings. Alongside these anecdotal benefits, it has been shown that even a small amount of time spent with a pet (around 15 minutes), produces hormones that help to ease stress and lower blood pressure. This is just one of the reasons pet therapy for the elderly is becoming increasingly popular.

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There are many reasons why some elderly people are not in a position to own even low maintenance pets. This may be due to ill health, or mobility issues. However, pet therapy for the elderly may be an alternative way for them to spend time around animals. Some seniors may have family or friends with pets who are happy to visit. Others, however, may not have access to this. 

Pet therapy in care homes involves scheduled visits from pets that residents can spend time with and reap all of the lovely benefits, such as: 

  • Reducing blood pressure for seniors with heart conditions
  • Encouraging exercise by playing or walking the pets
  • Providing regular company to seniors who don’t have any family to visit
  • Releasing oxytocin through touch and affection
  • A calming and soothing effect for dementia sufferers
  • A sense of routine and purpose through feeding or grooming
  • Interaction and socialisation with pets and with other seniors

Finding the Best Pets for Seniors

Now that we’ve covered all of the best pets for seniors, including lovely low maintenance pets, you might be ready to start looking for a pet of your own. Always use reputable breeders and research each pet’s needs before embarking on the amazing journey of pet ownership. If even a low maintenance pet seems a little too much, then it could well be worth looking into pet therapy for the elderly near you. 
Find out more about how we look after our care home residents’ wellbeing, or contact us if you have any questions.