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Pets and Older Adults

What are the benefits of having a pet?

Having a pet may help you live a longer, healthier, and more enjoyable life. A pet can be good for your mental and physical health. Animals can help keep your mind off your problems or pains. Pets can comfort you with touch and be a way to start conversations with other people. They can help you deal better with stress, grief, and loss. Pets may also help you feel safer and more secure. When you are around a pet, your blood pressure may be lower. Pets may help you stay more active and take better care of yourself.

What else should I think about?

Make a list of the positive and negative things about having the pet you want. Consider:


Pets can be costly, especially if you have a fixed income. Plan for the costs of shots, vet bills, neutering or spaying, food, household cleaning or repairs, and pet care if you are away from home. When you are ready to pick out a pet, consider checking with your local animal shelter or pet store. They should be able to give you an idea of the costs for your pet. Some animal shelters are part of the Pets for the Elderly Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that pays the fees charged by the shelter for adoption, shots, and spaying or neutering.

Your Health:

Do you have any allergies that you need to consider? If you are allergic to dogs or cats, you may find that you are not allergic to animals like hamsters or birds. If you take drugs that suppress your immune system, you need to be careful to avoid injury or infection from scratches or bites.

Pick a pet that needs an amount of care that you can provide. For example, some dogs need a lot of walks and play, while others don’t. Make sure you have the space you need. If you rent, ask your property owner if you are allowed to have pets.

Have a plan for what you will do if you have to move for financial, health, or other reasons and your pet cannot move with you.

Other Options:

If you decide not to have a pet in your house or apartment, you might be able to help care for animals in a nearby animal shelter, farm, or nature preserve. If you want to give a pet to an older friend or relative, talk it over with them first. It’s a good idea to talk about what might happen to a pet if the person moves or can no longer care for the pet.

You can get more information from:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-27
Last reviewed: 2014-05-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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