Tips and resources to help you throughout your caregiving journey

Benefits of companion pets for seniors

I was making the case to my sister for getting mom a cat, or maybe even two.

She wasn’t too taken with the idea. She had pets herself, but was not sold on my 81 year old mother getting a new pet at her age. Being who I am, I outlined all of the ways getting a cat (or two) would benefit mom, and by extension, all of us.

A conversation with my sister

“Imagine,” I said, “if mom could be more focused on something other than her own problems. I don’t mean any disrespect here—it’s just that it would give mom something else to think about and maybe she will be a little less self-absorbed.”

I carried on. “Imagine mom curled up on the couch with her beloved beside her. I know it’s ‘just’ an animal, but it is still company and she may feel less lonely.”

My always practical sister jumped into the conversation. “Mom’s eyesight isn’t great,” she said, “and is likely to get worse, not better. Have you thought about the kitty litter? I just can’t see mom cleaning it out once or twice a day. We did grow up in the same household, didn’t we?” I chuckled at the reference to my mom’s house cleaning standards.

“I hear you,” I said, “and I have thought about these things but I still think the benefits outweigh the risks and extra work.”

Before my sister had a chance, I raised the issue about the future. “If and when the time comes, I am prepared to take them in.” (I was rooting for the 2 cat option.)

My brother suggested we consider a robotic pet. No kitty litter to contend with, he said. While I was initially skeptical, he told us that robotic pets  were just as effective at reducing loneliness as a real pet. He had done his homework and also suggested we consider a headless robotic pet pillow that yes, purrs. Because Mom is mobile and able to care for a pet, we decided to go for the ‘real thing’ for now but a robotic pet may be something we consider down the road.

Seven years later…

My mom is now 88. While she tells us about all the extra work and cost of having 2 cats (yup, I got my way!), she always takes every opportunity to remind us that life isn’t easy.

What we also hear about however, is how her “puddies” wake her up in the morning and she knows it’s time to get up and feed them. We hear about how her “puddies” meet her at the back door even if she has only been away for an hour or so. And we hear about how Amphry in particular loves to curl up beside her when she watches TV.

Should I get my senior parent a cat or a dog?

Both dogs and cats can make a great companion. Unconditional love is unconditional love. At the same time, it is important to make sure that the pet is a ‘good fit’. That is, you want a breed with a temperament of a companion! Before we went with the decision to go the cat route, I researched all of the things we should consider when picking a pet.  This list of considerations doesn’t just apply to cats and dogs but to other types of pets such as a rabbit, bird, fish, etc. Here is the list!

What to consider when picking a pet

  • activity level of your parents
  • experience owning pet
  • health and ability to provide daily care (feeding,exercise, clean up)
  • financial situation (consider daily costs and potential vet bills)
  • where they live (is it practical to own a pet?)
  • future plan should your parents become unable to continue having a pet or are temporarily unable to care for them

Are you considering getting a pet for your parent? If your parent already has a pet, how has it turned out? Also, if you bought the pet pillow, I just have to know how that went!  



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