When is the Right Time to Get a Pet?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 5, 2016

A pet is a fantastic companion, and represents a friend that offers unconditional love. For seniors, taking care of a new pet may become a  new hobby, while a dog or cat may even be able to mitigate loneliness or anxiety.

According to Animal Smart, numerous studies over the years have shown that spending time with a pet can have major health benefits. In some cases, the friendship of a dog or cat may be able to reduce anxiety, depression or even improve cardiac health.

Although pet ownership comes with a number of built-in rewards, it can be a tremendous responsibility. Before you head to the pound or animal shelter to pick our a dog or cat, check out the following caveats and things to keep in mind.

Make Sure You Have the Time and Space
A dog or cat needs access to indoor areas to stretch their legs, and many need to spend time outdoors. With older adults living alone in an apartment or condo, some dogs may feel cramped or restless. Senior living facilities may have the space to house a pet, but each will likely have specific rules.

Puppies and kittens especially require a good amount of attention and training. This is obviously a tremendous opportunity to bond with a new animal friend, but some seniors may be too busy or not have the energy to keep up with this responsibility. One way to assess your ability to integrate a new pooch or kitty into your life is to look after a friend's pet for about a week. That is likely the best way to ensure you are ready.

Even beyond the usual cat or dog, other pets need more space than you might think. Some species of reptile grow rather large, and although these are generally low maintenance pets and perfect for more relaxed pet owners, its important to evaluate whether or not you will be able to house and care for a snake or turtle. 

Even the most eager would-be pet owners need to make sure they are ready to take on such a big responsibility. Pets need a fair amount of nurturing on top of physical needs, and failing to make sure you are capable of looking after a dog or cat could become a negative situation.

Consider the financial costs
Pet Education reported that owning a dog or cat can be an expensive pursuit, and may put financial strains on some individuals or families. The cost of simple things like food, leashes, toys and treats can be more than you might expect. In fact, just living expenses can run into the hundreds of dollars in one year alone.

Veterinary bills are another major financial responsibility for pet owners. Vaccines and operations to spay and neuter a new pet can also be rather pricey, while dental care or grooming is a more affordable but frequent expense.

Again, even smaller pets like a ferret or bird will require that you set aside some money each month. For that reason, its important to review your finances before running to the pet store or animal shelter.

Pick the right breed
Of course its critical that you evaluate your living conditions to see whether or not you are ready to take on the responsibility of pet ownership, but another consideration is what pet to get. Some types of dogs may be too high-maintenance or energetic, making them poor choices for seniors enjoying retirement.

Vet Street found that some breeds, like French bulldogs or some breeds of poodle, are perfect for older adults because they are small and relaxed. They are perfectly at home in an apartment, while still offering the same unconditional love and friendship. As for other pets like cats, birds or even fish, be sure to research temperament and energy levels of specific species before making an adoption.

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