Have you considered getting a pet for yourself or a loved one? We look at the many benefits of pet ownership and list some things to consider.
Most of us have had a beloved pet or two in our lifetime, but with the demands of work and family, you may not have added a furry friend to the family dynamic for some time. Whether you’re considering getting a pet for yourself or for an elderly loved one, we take a look at some of the things to consider and some of the benefits.
Benefits of owning a pet
Did you know that owning a pet can reduce your risk of disease? The American Heart Association reports that many studies show that pet ownership can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition, a review of 69 studies on the effects of human-animal interaction published in Frontiers in Psychology revealed that the simple act of stroking a pet can yield significant benefits, including reducing stress and releasing the feel-good hormone-oxytocin.
Then there is the importance of companionship at a time when you or your loved one may be feeling increasingly isolated or lonely. The emotional support and companionship a pet can provide shouldn’t be underestimated.
If your pet of choice is a dog, you’ll also have the added benefit of daily exercise – which is hard to wriggle out of with a pair of brown eyes pleading at you – and a social partner. A University of Toronto study revealed that people who walk dogs experience increased social contact and conversation, which can be particularly important to empty nesters and those who have lost a partner.
“Pets are associated with increased self-esteem, life satisfaction and positive moods.” – The International Federation on Ageing
Ways to find a pet
The best way to find a pet is with some online research. A great option for older Australians can be rescuing a pet from the RSPCA or equivalent.
You’ll find a range of animals and some will have the added benefit of being older, wiser and trained. The staff at the centre will always help you to find the best pet for your needs.
If you’d like to give pet ownership a short try, or would just like to have a part-time pet, RSPCA, Pet Rescue and many other local organisations offer fostering options, which can save an animal’s life.
Is getting a pet right for you?
Answering ‘yes’ to all these questions means you’re more than ready for a pet.
- Could you put in a cat door or find room for a kitty litter box in your current home?
- Will you be able to take a dog walking each day or pay someone else to if you’re unable to?
- If you travel a lot is there someone who could feed your pet or mind your dog? (These can be paid services.)
- Is there someone who could take your pet if you downsize or move to an aged care facility and can’t take your pet?
- Is there someone who can help you take your pet to the vet if you’re unable to drive there yourself?
- Most people are drawn to cats or dogs, but have you also considered something easier to manage like chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits, reptiles, caged birds or even fish?
Best in breed
Not sure about the kind of pet you should go for? Below is an overview from petcarefacts.com to help you choose.
Dogs – adaptable, charming and eager, dogs are affectionate and playful.
Arguably the best companion pet there is, golden retrievers are ideal as guide dogs, therapy dogs, or service animals. They are patient, calming, loyal and protective of their families. Though they do need daily walks, they’re perfect for an older individual who is looking for a gentle, even-tempered, intelligent pet.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
A born lap pup, this dog enjoys being stroked, petted and cuddled by its owners. They prefer to have company constantly, so they’re perfect for an older person who is looking for a faithful and sweet-tempered dog.
Playful and endearing without having an overwhelming abundance of energy, bichon frise have nearly hypoallergenic coats, which helps those who have respiratory problems or allergies.
These dogs are gentle spirited, patient and quieter companions compared to other breeds. An older or retired racing greyhound is a great companion for an older couple or individual because of their undemanding and steady presence.
Other good breeds for older people – pugs and cocker spaniels .
Cats – helpful for companionship if someone has limited mobility, cats are independent, entertaining and loving to play with.
These cats enjoy leisurely time spent indoors with their families, lounging on an available piece of furniture or person’s lap. They tend to be less active than other breeds and love company and comfort.
As a breed known for being docile, ragdolls are still playful and fun, but don’t need hours of games, training or outdoor time. These cats can stay happily occupied with a few pet toys and some hands-on time with their owner.
These cats love following their owner from room to room, greeting them at the door when they arrive home and always seeming interested in what their owner is up to – much like a dog would be. While they do need time to play with their owners, these cats would be perfect as a low-key pet for an older couple.
What to remember
There’s no denying a pet can bring joy to your life or that of your loved one, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without its responsibilities and commitments. Before committing to a pet, consider all the options available and make sure you’ve taken time to assess whether a pet would really be right for you or your loved one. If a full-time commitment isn’t the best option, you could always consider fostering as a kind of trial solution!