Owning a Pet in Later Life

Many older people decide against taking on a new pet in later life for a variety of reasons.

Mon 05 Mar 2018

By Judy

Owning a Pet in Later Life

Should you consider taking on a new pet when you get older?

Many older people decide against taking on a new pet in later life for a variety of reasons. There could be concerns about  not being able to exercise the pet adequately, cleaning up after it, and all the other work involved in keeping a pet. There may be worries about the cost of keeping a pet, or concerns  about what will happen to their pet if they have to go into hospital, a care home, or the unthinkable, if they  pass away.

Sadly, many older people are missing out on a whole new lease of life, possible health benefits, love and company a new pet will bring. Additionally, retired people often have more leisure time on their hands to devote to their  new pet.

POA take a look at the some of the common concerns people have about owning a pet in later life.

I’m in my 70s and not so fit, so I can’t have a pet any more.

Cats are the pefect pet for older owners! Cats are ideal for those who struggle to get out and about. They will take exercise themselves, but you may want to consider toys or a play tower to keep them stimulated, if they are indoor types. You will be rewarded with a quiet but loving companion who enjoys curling up on your lap.

If you’re a dog lover, consider an older dog or a breed that doesn’t require vigorous exercise. The YorkshireTerrier is a very popular choice for older owners. It’s a small breed, with plenty of character. Other potential dog breeds that may be suitable for an older pet owner are the ever popular West Highland Terrier or the Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, Bichon Frise and Border Terrier. See our article on dogs that don’t require a lot of exercise.

Taking on a veteran dog will mean you don’t have to go through the demanding task of training and the time and exercise needs a new puppy brings. Another extremely loving and devoted breed is a retired Greyhound. The Greyhound has a reputation as an athletic dog needing plenty of exercise. This is not the case with retired racers, although he will enjoy a quick sprint around the garden, Greyhounds enjoy a leisurely, sedentary lifestyle, happy to relax and are usually very placid and affectionate.

Rescue centres will be delighted to help you select the ideal breed and dog for you. Older dogs are often overlooked by potential new owners. Make sure your new dog is well trained on the lead. Pulling on the lead can be exhausting for you and could result in a nasty fall and broken bones.

How about a small aviary in the garden, or a bird cage inside the home?

Keeping birds is a lovely pastime. You might decide that you would like a small aviary or a couple of caged birds in the house, instead of a cat or dog. Please see our article about what to consider if you want to keep a pet bird or birds.  It is worth just bearing in mind that some birds live for decades, so - to be blunt - you should make some sort of provision for your pet if it is likely that it will outlast you! Note too that some breeds of birds like company of their own kind or similar sized varieties.

I’m not sure whether I can afford the upkeep of a pet.

As a rule, rescue centres ensure pets go to new homes microchipped, neutered, vaccinated and parasite free, saving you the expense of these necessities.

You may want to consider pet insurance to avoid unexpected veterinary bills, although your policy won’t cover the cost of annual jabs or dental treatment. Boosters should be kept up to date, as many insurance policies will not pay out for illnesses that could have been prevented from vaccination.

Small breeds of dog and cats eat small portions, so it should cost no more than a couple of pounds a week to feed a small dog or a cat. Healthy, nutritious leftovers can be suitable for dogs, as long as you avoid the foods a dog cannot eat.

Concerns about keeping the home clean as an older pet owners

If you are worried about cleaning up after your pet in your home, see our articles on dog breeds that do not shed or have very low levels of shedding. Additionally you could look at our articles on cleaning up cat hairs in the home and dog hairs in the home. Clearly if you have any breathing difficulties that might be aggravated by dog or cat fur or bird feathers, discuss the idea of owning a new pet with your doctor first.

What happens if I need to go into hospital for a few days or become unwell?

Keep your pet’s details together in an accessible place, so a carer or relative knows exactly what to do in case of emergency. It would be a good idea to have a particular neighbour, friend or relative in mind for this eventuality, so that you do not have to worry about this if the time comes.

These include:

  • Pet’s name, breed, date of birth and microchip information
  • The contact details of your vet.
  • Medications he/she is on and details of any health issues and allergies.
  • Dietary requirements.Details of any friends who may be able to assist.
  • Vaccination records (in case your pet needs to be placed in a boarding kennel or with a pet sitter until you are better.) 

I may need to go into sheltered accommodation, so what will happen to my pet?

Many schemes now recognise the importance to their residents owning a pet. Each one will have its own set of rules, but increasingly small pets are becoming welcome in many sheltered homes.

I do get lonely on my own, but are there any other benefits of owning a pet?

Yes, absolutely! You will have a friend who loves you unconditionally, and someone else to focus on and get up for in the morning. With a dog, if you’re able to manage short walks, you’ll find a whole new world opens up for you. You’ll probably meet like-minded dog owners of all ages, often happy to stop for a chat. You’ll become fitter and be able to walk further. You may well find that you lose weight, find your blood pressure drops, sleep better and look better.

What if I need to go into hospital, become unable to exercise my pet or; what if I should pass away?

There are people who can step in and help if you become unwell and concerned about your pet. The Cinnamon Trust is a charity that helps elderly and terminally ill pet owners. They have volunteers than can help exercise or foster your pet in times of need. The trust can also help rehome pets when owners need to go into nursing homes, or have passed away. The Dogs Trust, Cats Protection and the Blue Cross amongst others also offer schemes to take up the care of your pet if you should pass away. You can also leave instructions in your will. See our article about providing for your pets.

If you feel you would like a pet in later life, don’t be put off, just do a bit of resarch and you will find that there’s an ideal companion out there waiting for you!

Some useful organisations that you could contact - all have a website that you could look at: