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Best pets for old people

12th April 2023

No matter how old you are, having a pet can bring joy to your everyday life. This is especially true for older people as pets can become a much-needed companion and friend. But, if you’re an older person who suffers from mobility problems and you rely on stairlifts, you need to consider which animal is best for you.

The PDSA, a pet charity for pets in need, talks about the benefits of owning a pet: “Pets can brighten up the darkest of days just by looking at you. But did you know that scientific studies have proven that owning a pet can be good for your physical and mental health? That’s right, science says owning a pet is good for us!”

In this guide, we look at the best pets for older people and go through some of the best breeds of dogs, cats and other popular household pets.

The best dogs for older people

Dogs are among the best pets for seniors to own as these loveable creatures don’t just make you laugh and smile every day, but the care and attention they require can give older people tasks for the day.

When you own a dog, you will have to walk them at least twice a day, giving you an excellent reason 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.

Rachel, a pet journalist and blogger running the site The Paw Post, says owning a dog is a great idea for an older person.

“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 well-being. 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.”

There isn’t a right or wrong dog for you to choose, but 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.

Corgis

Corgis are great dogs for older people who are less mobile, as this breed loves lounging around just as much as it does playing. This breed of dog is easy to train, and their playfulness means they are great for being around other people.

Corgis are low maintenance, very affectionate, and easy to train which makes them an excellent breed for older people. They will need a medium to long walk every day to meet their exercise needs.

Poodles

Poodles are an incredibly intelligent dog breed that are easy to train. The breed is perfect for older people as they don’t require a ton of exercise — one solid walk per day is enough. They are quite content to lounge and cuddle with family members and due to their gentle and nurturing nature, they are comfortable around children.

Poodles do require grooming every four to six weeks, but they don’t shed, which makes them an even better choice for older adults.

Speaking about why Poodles are great breeds for older adults, Naomi Nicholson from the Know Your Doodles site says: “Whilst some breeds of dog should be avoided. For example, those who need a hardy exercise schedule or large, powerful, strong breeds, there are many who fit the bill as a perfect partner to the more senior members of society.

“The Poodle is a perfect example, and he even comes in three different sizes. Each may be a better fit for different circumstances, such as mobility, health, and the accommodation of the senior looking for a companion.

“However, overall, and generically Poodles, can and do bring many benefits to the older owner.”

Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzers are known for being patient and good with children as well as enjoying playtime, which makes them perfect if your grandchildren often come over and stay with you.

These family-friendly dogs are obedient and quick learners so if you buy a puppy of this breed, they should pick up on learning new things. Although Miniature Schnauzers are low-shedding, they do have a double coat which means they will need to be groomed by a professional.

In terms of exercise, this breed of dog will need exercise daily, but as the Miniature Schnauzer Club says, they will adapt to your lifestyle:

“As a family dog, the breed is par excellence and has much to offer being a handy and easy to manage size as well as having a splendid character and temperament which adapts to its owner’s lifestyle.”

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 Tzus 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.

Dog Monthly talks a bit about the Yorkshire Terrier and why it is a popular breed of dog to own: “It’s all a case of perception because you can get a tough little cookie alongside the charming, friendly family pet in one small, dynamic package. In fact, the Yorkshire Terrier is aptly named because, like its county of origin, it can be very lovely to look at, friendly and welcoming, but also tough, rugged and unyielding.”

ALSO READ: How to prepare for getting a pet

Cats for older people

Cats are good pets for old people as they 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 breeds 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.

Russian Blue

With its striking grey-coloured fur and piercing eyes, the Russian Blue breed of cat has become a hugely popular pet across the UK.

It is considered a quiet but loving breed as they like to be close to their human owner. Another reason why they are considered to be a good breed of cat for older people is the fact they are not excessively energetic or needy so they can be left alone because they can keep themselves company.

They will also get along with other cats, all humans, and can even get along with dogs, although this depends on the temperament of the dog.

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 its owner.

The British Shorthair Cat Club talks a bit about this breed and some of its characteristics: “This sturdy teddy bear has a smile and a plush coat combined with a wonderful disposition that makes them great family pets. It traces its ancestry back to the cats of Rome and is one of the oldest breeds of cats. The British Shorthair is also one of the largest breeds of cat. It is chunky and substantial; the male is much larger than the female. The face is round with full cheeks and the nose is short and broad.”

Ragdoll

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.

Birman

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.

Scottish Fold

The Scottish Fold is a cat breed which has distinctive folded ears, and this mild-mannered breed is perfect as pets for older adults who are looking for a pet that isn’t too active.

Scottish Fold cats will need a daily brushing but due to being very well-tempered they are great with children and will get along with other pets in your house.

They are a very chilled breed of cat and whilst they can be coaxed into a little playtime each day, they also won’t be charging around the house.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association has spoken a bit more about the Scottish Fold’s temperament and qualities: “Scottish Folds are hardy cats, much like their barnyard ancestors. Their disposition matches their sweet expression. They have tiny voices and are not extremely vocal. They adore human companionship and display this in their own quiet way.

“Scottish Folds adapt to almost any home situation and are as comfortable in a room full of noisy children and dogs as they are in a single person’s dwelling. They don’t usually panic at shows or in strange hotel rooms, and they adjust to other animals extremely well.”

ALSO READ: Tips for retired first-time pet owners

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 are low-maintenance pets for the elderly and are certainly worth considering when an older person is looking for a pet companion.

Birds

Birds such as Parakeets, also known as budgies, are among the best pets for an elderly person as they are low maintenance, and their colourful feathers and cheeriness will bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Birds such as Parakeets usually do best when they are in pairs and these small birds like to fly around, but you can trim their flight feathers if you don’t want them fluttering around the house. If you do this, you will need to purchase a large cage.

Parakeets take less work to clean up after and compared to other birds like Parrots, they are quieter and don’t bite as much. The average parakeet can live from 7-10 years of age.

The Lisa Shea website recommends getting everything set up before buying a Parakeet: “Take your time researching cages, food options, cuttlebones, and everything else you’ll need. Make sure it sets up well in the area you had intended. Get it all just right. Then go and bring your new playmate home.”

ALSO READ: An in-depth guide to garden birds

Why you should 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 and make it more accessible to help you look after your pet, talk to Age Co Mobility’s friendly team about installing a walk in shower into your home. You can make an enquiry here.

Best pets for older people:

  • Corgis
  • Poodles
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Shih Tzu
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Russian Blue
  • The British Shorthair Cat
  • Ragdoll Cat
  • Birman Cat
  • Scottish Fold
  • Guinea Pigs and enclosed animals
  • Birds

For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our news page.

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