We all love furry pets that are so cute and happy to see you when you return home. However, there is a category of people that benefits from being a pet owner more than others do: it is seniors. Scientific evidence suggests having a dog or cat living with the elderly means experiencing a number of beneficial effects. Read on to learn in what ways pets can help, and why senior pets are a perfect match.
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A chance for senior pets
It can be difficult to find a family for a pet that is no longer a kitten or a puppy – in many cases, it’s the fluffiness and cuteness of a tiny creature that makes people’s hearts melt and want to adopt the little cat or dog. However, it’s not that easy in the case of pets that are mature: there is a common assumption that adult pets will not love their new master and will be difficult to train. Admittedly, there is evidence that older pets may find it difficult to get used to a new name or change their habits, but they can learn and love, and one study even demonstrated that older dogs are better at learning and solving puzzles than younger pooches!
Don’t refuse to adopt a pet just because it’s not several months old: the joy and love they can bring are not inferior to those brought by their younger counterparts.
So, the first reason to adopt a senior pet for your elder is not because of the elder themselves: it’s just that it’s a good deed.
In what way do seniors benefit from having a pet?
Now back to humans. It appears that senior pets are a perfect match for seniors who live alone. The growing scientific evidence corroborates the theory that being a pet owner is good for health.
Reason #1. Senior pets and elders have similar habits and characters.
In Australia, a special program called Shy Cats and Senior Citizens Program was launched to help shy cats, which failed to be adopted because they would always run away when someone was interested in taking a look at them, find a companion. Seniors can provide such animals with stress-free environment, as their habits and preferences are often similar: they both like quietness, and that’s what many seniors have in abundance. One of the reasons why seniors do not adopt pets is that they are afraid that the pets would be left alone with no one to care about them, should something happen to the elder. Such programs provide a safety net and can take the pet back if the companion can no longer care for the animal. So, it’s kind of a symbiosis.
Reason #2. Being a pet owner is beneficial for health.
There are many studies that revealed having a dog or a cat is beneficial for health. First, being a pet owner implies higher levels of physical activity, so walking a dog, playing with a pet or cleaning means burning more calories, providing exercise for your muscles, including the heart, and keeping other organs in good shape.
Second, mental health is also influenced by pets, as seniors often lack opportunities to communicate with other people, and animals are used as a substitution. Such companionship even appears to contribute to longevity. Senior pets are calm and tend to be friendly: they do not run all days long like kittens and puppies do, so they will like sitting with their elders and enjoying their company.
Reason #3. Being a pet owner means communicating more.
There is evidence suggesting that having a dog is associated with communicating more. The reason for it is that walking a dog usually implies going to a park or a specific place where dogs are allowed, and chatting with other dog owners is a thing that happens very often. It is especially true of senior pet owners and senior pets: such pets may require longer walks or just enjoy sitting outdoors, while their owners get another opportunity to talk to other people.
In the US, there are several organizations that help senior pets find homes. One of them is Pets for the Elderly, a charity aimed at providing companionship to elders by means finding them a senior pet that would become their best friend. Another one is Pets for Seniors. Fighting loneliness by taking care of a pet appears to be a good way to help seniors not to lose sense of purpose and stay healthy for a longer period, so why not making both the animal and the human a little bit happier?
Support Pets for the Elderly – Petsfortheelderly.org
Pets for Seniors – Petsforseniors.org
Senior Adults Can See Health Benefits from Dog Ownership – Munews.missouri.edu
Shy Cats and Senior Citizens Program – Petrescue.com.au