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How to pick a pet for seniors

Written by on Friday, April 24, 2015
How to pick a pet for seniors

Pets can bring a lot of happiness into the lives of their owners, and this is especially true for seniors. According to Paws, an organization dedicated to helping animals, pets can provide seniors with mental and physical health benefits. Not only do the pets themselves serve as friendly companions, but owning one opens up a lot of opportunities to meet other pet owners. Owning a pet can also promote physical activity - dogs need to be walked and cats want to play, so seniors with either of these pets will receive the benefits of daily exercise. 

While pets provide a lot of advantages for seniors, it's important to pick the right one. For example, a senior wouldn't want a young puppy that requires being let out in the middle of the night or has too much energy. Therefore, it's vital that seniors reflect on their own daily habits and personalities in order to pick the best pet match.

The age
A senior dog or cat is probably the best option for retirees looking to adopt a pet. Animal shelters house a lot of older animals that would be eternally grateful for the chance to live in a happy home. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, small- to medium-sized dogs are considered geriatric at 7 years old and larger-sized dogs at 6 years old. Though animals of all ages need exercise, senior dogs and cats tend to be calmer, making them an ideal candidate for seniors with a relaxed retirement lifestyle.

The age of your pet can have a big impact on its temperament. The age of your pet can have a big impact on its temperament.

The size
Smaller dogs are typically better for seniors because there's less of a risk of the dog overpowering them. Though older dogs are less energetic, they could still pull or tug aggressively on a leash if something catches their attention. Plus, just because humans know large dogs aren't lap dogs, big breeds might not realize it themselves. In order to avoid an oversized pooch from making the couch its bed or using a senior's lap as a chair, it's best to stick with smaller, more weight-appropriate dogs. Cats, on the other hand, are one-size-fits-all.

The temperament
Commonalities usually exist within breeds, but a potential owner can never truly know the personality of a dog or cat until he or she is introduced to it. Just by walking around an animal shelter, it's usually clear which animals are calmer than their barking and scratching kennel buddies.

When thinking about temperament, it's also important for seniors to evaluate their own daily routines. They should ask themselves some of the following questions: Do the grandkids visit frequently? Could my neighbors hear a barking dog? Am I worried about an animal ruining my furniture? Potential owners should speak to an employee at the shelter about a dog or cat's history before making a decision. This way, they will know if the new pet is compatible with their lifestyle.

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