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0 A Senior's Guide to Adopting a Pet

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A Senior's Guide to Adopting a Pet

Are you a senior looking to adopt a new pet? Perhaps you're retired and have some extra time on your hands and are thinking about starting a pet-sitting business. Or maybe you simply want the companionship that comes with owning a pet. Assuming you have the physical ability, financial resources, and suitable living arrangements, this guide covers some of the things you should know before taking the plunge into pet ownership as a senior citizen!


The Different Types of Pets to Consider

There are so many different types of pets out there, and it can be tough to decide which one is right for you. If you're keen on having a furry friend, dogs and cats are always popular choices. But if you're looking for something with a little lower maintenance, consider getting a fish or reptile instead. Hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits also make great starter pets for seniors.



Dogs require daily walks and plenty of playtimes. They must also be brushed regularly and require regular trips to the groomer (and vet!). If you're not up for all that upkeep, consider getting a smaller dog breed that doesn't shed much fur. Wondering about a dog’s breed? Use a breed-identifying app to accurately guess the breed and then match their needs to your abilities, or capabilities. If, for example, you are a 90-pound female, it may not be the best idea to get a 120-pound dog. Also, if you suffer from an illness (knee pain, back pain, arthritis, etc.) that prevents you from being able to give a high-energy pet the attention it needs, consider a dog with lower energy.



Cats are relatively low-maintenance compared to dogs; they don't need to be walked and can often be left alone for long periods of time while still being happy and healthy. That said, they do require regular trips to the vet and routine grooming (or at least some help with shedding!). And don't forget the litter box! Cats can also get bored easily and take out their frustration on your walls, door frames, furniture, etc. Always keep plenty of toys around as well as a couple of good scratching posts for them to keep their claws sharp when you're not home.



Fish make great starter pets because they're relatively easy to care for — all they need is clean water and regular feedings. However, they don't provide the same level of companionship as other pets such as dogs or cats. Larger aquariums can be a beautiful addition to any décor but they are not as easy to move as a sofa or chair so find the best spot for them when you first bring them home. You should also know that some species don't get along very well with others. Make sure that all of your fish are compatible or you might come home and find that the expensive fish you just purchased was someone's lunch.


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Hamsters/Guinea Pigs/Rabbits

These small mammals make great starter pets because they don't need as much space as larger animals like dogs or cats. And while they can be very entertaining watching them get their exercise on the hamster wheel, they do have some maintenance needs. You must keep their cage clean at all times and if they ever get out they can be surprisingly difficult to find. They don't need walks or frequent trips to the vet, but they do need routine checkups. They require a vet that specializes in other types of animals, and since most veterinarians only see dogs and cats, make sure there is a specialty vet close by before taking one in as a pet.



Birds can be one of the most soothing creatures you'll ever own. Listening to their gentle chirps or cooing in the morning can help you wake with a song in your heart. Depending on the species they can be very colorful and quite pleasing to watch. Some can become very attached to their human counterparts and get very excited when they get home. It is a good idea if you plan to let them out of their cage occasionally that you have their wings clipped so they don't fly away. Like hamsters or guinea pigs, they have similar maintenance requirements with regular cage cleaning and routine checkups from a vet that specializes in birds.




Like fish, reptiles are also low-maintenance, but they do require special care when it comes to feeding and housing them correctly. Some reptiles can also carry bacteria that may be harmful to humans, so it's important to do your research before bringing one home. The food requirements of some reptiles can be a challenge. If the primary food source for your animal is other live animals, crickets, mice, grubs, etc., make sure you have the ability to house and care for them as well as your pet.


Maintaining Your Pet's Health and Happiness

Now that you've decided which type of pet is right for you, it's essential to think about how you will keep them healthy and happy. Here are some tips:


Regular Vet Checkups

All pets, regardless of whether they're indoor or outdoor animals, should see the veterinarian at least once a year for routine checkups and vaccinations. This is especially important for older animals that may not have as strong of an immune system as they did when they were younger.


Proper Nutrition

It's essential to feed your pet a nutritious diet that meets its specific needs; talk to your vet about what type of food is best for your animal friend. For example, cats require more protein than dogs because they're obligate carnivores; dogs are omnivores and can digest both plant-based and meat-based proteins. Grain-free dried dog food is sure to please. Be sure to provide dogs with a healthier, more natural diet free from processed grains and fillers, while still ensuring they get all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.



Animals need exercise just like humans. Make sure your pet gets plenty of activity every day whether that means going on walks or runs (if they're dogs), playing with toys (if they're cats), or simply having some time out of their cage or aquarium (if they're small mammals or reptiles). Fish get all the exercise they need just by swimming around; however, make sure their aquarium is large enough to support them.


Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a policy that provides coverage for unexpected medical costs associated with your pet, including veterinary visits, surgery, emergency care, and more. The premiums you pay cover not only the cost of treatment but also any related expenses such as prescriptions, tests, X-rays, and hospitalization. With an appropriate policy in place, pet owners can rest assured knowing their furry family members will be taken care of should any health issues arise.



This may not be a topic most of us want to think about but the longevity of the animal should also be considered when thinking about getting a new pet. This is not as important if you are still in your early retirement years but something that should be thought about if you are approaching your seventies or eighties. In many ways, we can become very attached to our cuddly friends and if they go before us it can lead to depression and all the negative effects it can have on the body. They too can become dependent on and attached to us, leading to similar results in them. While there is no way to know when that time will come for either party, it is a good idea to plan ahead. Some animals, some birds and reptiles, for example, can live 70 to 80 years which could equal a lifetime commitment. Do some research and find a match that will not leave either of you behind for very long, or stick to a pet that has a less attachment factor like fish or reptiles. Also, you should make sure you have solid plans for who would take care of your friend in the event you go first.


Wrapping Up

Adopting a pet as a senior citizen comes with its own set of challenges and benefits. Studies show that pet owners live longer, healthier, and less stressful lives, but it will be more enjoyable with some careful planning! Be sure to choose an animal and breed that fits well with your lifestyle and personality traits. Also, remember that all pets require regular vet checkups, nutritious food, and exercise. With these things in mind, you'll be well on your way toward providing a forever home for an animal in need!

Visit Enjoying Aging for a wide variety of articles and resources that matter to seniors!


A special thank you to Sharon Wagner at seniorfriendly.info for contributing this article.


If you enjoyed this article, or have a topic you would like to suggest for a new article, please leave a comment in the form below.


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