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Best pets for older people

8th April 2020


Having a pet can bring joy to your everyday life, no matter your age. However, for older people, pets can become a much-needed companion and friend. But, if you’re an older person who may rely on stair lifts at home, and you’re considering getting a pet, which animal is best? In this guide, we look at the best pets for older people.

Dogs for older people


These lovable creatures are considered one of the best pets for older people. Not only can they make you laugh and smile every day, but the care and attention they require can give older people tasks for the day, great for those who struggled giving up a busy lifestyle in retirement.

Owning a dog means you’ll have to walk them at least twice a day, giving you an excellent reason for older people to get out of the house and enjoy some fresh air. If you live alone, going for walks can seem unappealing, but with a companion by your side, you never have to walk alone.

We spoke to Rachel, a pet journalist and blogger running the site The Paw Post, she tells us: “I think if an older person is considering getting a pet then it’s best to start by looking at their lifestyle. If they’re active and want to get outdoors and meet people, a dog is a perfect companion. 

“Having a dog is the perfect antidote to loneliness which can lead to depression, anxiety and affect physical wellbeing. People are more likely to chat if you have a dog and having to walk them ensures you get the daily walk recommended by the NHS.”

Although there is no right or wrong dog for you to choose, there are some breeds that are more popular with older people than others. However, remember each dog is different, and the right dog for you is the one you bond with the most. Below are some of the popular dog breeds for older people.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Spruce Pets comprised a list of the best pets for older people on their website. This included the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a lovable and affectionate small dog. This dog breed is easy to train and doesn’t require a large amount of exercise, making them great for older people who can only walk their pet a couple times a day. These loyal companions are also popular with first-time pet owners thanks to their undemanding nature. Although small, these dogs have long fur, so will require grooming fairly regularly.

Shih Tzu

Dogs of this breed will make the perfect companion for older people who don’t mind a few dog hairs on the sofa, as these little dogs love to snuggle up to their owners. Again, Shih Tzu’s have low exercise needs but do need to be groomed regularly because of their long hair. Unlike the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, these small dogs can be known to bark when left alone.

Yorkshire Terrier

Another small dog that is easy-to-handle for an older person is the Yorkshire Terrier. These dogs are highly adaptable and intelligent, so will fit into your lifestyle smoothly. These will need regular walks; they like to be busy, but as they are only a small dog, the walks don’t need to be too demanding.

Cats for older people


Cats can be just as friendly as dogs, but without needing as much looking after, as they live relatively independently.

Blogger Christina from Everyday Dog Mom said: “It can get pretty lonely living alone, and sadly a lot of older people are in this situation. Having a pet is a great source of companionship and comfort for anyone, especially those of us who tend to be a little bit isolated.

“Cats are probably the best pets for older people because they're so low maintenance and easy to care for. They're not as demanding as dogs because they don't need to be walked or let outside to potty, and they're typically pretty mellow and chill, so they're easy for an older person to care for. Of course, if the person is looking for a way to be more active, a dog is a great solution because daily walks and playing together is a wonderful way to get moving!”

Types of cat breed are less known than dogs, however, it’s worth considering the breed when buying a cat, as their energy levels and characteristics can differ. Below are some popular cat breeds amongst older people.

The British Shorthair

The easy-going personality of the British shorthair cat makes them a great cat breed for older people to look after. Although all cats have sparks of energy every now and again, this breed is not overly active and will happily relax next to their owner.


This is another undemanding cat breed that is known for being gentle and calm. Much like their name suggests, these cats are happy to laze about and show their owners some affection, however, they still have bursts of energy. With silky long fur, ragdolls will need to be brushed regularly.


A quiet cat recognised for their bright blue eyes and white fur; this breed is perfect for older people who are looking for a friendly but playful cat. They love to explore the outdoors, but also love being in the company of their owners. Just like ragdolls, they will require grooming once a week with a brush.

Guinea Pigs and enclosed animals


If you’re not a cat or dog person, then there are plenty of other furry friends to choose from, including guinea pigs. These are social creatures, so getting more than one to keep themselves entertained all day can help them live a happy life.

Guinea pigs can be kept inside or outside and need a large enclosure in the garden to protect them from other wildlife. If you’re planning to keep them inside, remember these are ‘chatty’ creatures that are awake for up to 20 hours a day.

These pets are fairly easy to look after and are perfect for older people who can’t take a pet out for long walks, but still want to carry out tasks each day to look after them. Rachel from The Paw Post adds: “For less active people, a cat can be excellent company too as can small furries like bunnies, hamsters and guinea pigs.”

Scott, the founder of the online resource for older people Graying with Grace, tells us: “Caged pets such as guinea pigs are an interesting choice too, I think. Surprisingly, they have a ton of personality, enjoy being held, and are easy to care for. The negative is having to clean a cage periodically!”

Similarly, rabbits, gerbils and hamsters can all be great pets for older people.

Consider adopting an older pet


Puppies, kittens and all young pets are going to need a lot of your time and care, which for older people, can become quite demanding. If you’re thinking about getting a pet, why not consider adopting an older pet that doesn’t have a home? Not only will it mean the world to them to live out their last few years in the comfort of a home, but they will also be much easier to manage.

Rachel from The Paw Post says: “There are so many animals needing homes, and older people struggling with feelings of isolation. I would urge anyone considering a pet to visit their local rescue centre or a pet adoption website.

“Generally, my recommendation is for older people to avoid any pets that can get ‘underfoot’ and potentially lead to a fall. So often, young dogs and cats, especially smaller breeds, cause seniors to trip leading to falls and injuries. For seniors who want a dog, I prefer medium to larger breeds that are already adults. Mature shelter dogs are the best choice, especially if the pet’s history is known.” Scott from Graying with Grace adds.

If you want to be able to navigate your home easier to help you look after your pet, talk to Handicare’s friendly team about installing a stairlift into your home. You can make an enquiry here.

Best pets for older people:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • The British Shorthair Cat
  • Ragdoll Cat
  • Birman Cat
  • Guinea Pigs and enclosed animals

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.