Many of us, especially those who have raised children, have had a pet at one time or another. Now that the children are on their own we think its their turn to enjoy the pleasures as well as the troubles that come with having a pet. Our relationships with animals as members of the family are over. Some say, “I enjoy seeing them in the wild, but not in the house. I’ll watch them on TV on nature shows, but that’s my limit.” The reasons are obvious: the dog walking (if the pet is a dog), the expense of buying animal food, the gnawing of furniture and the inevitable accidents, not to mention the pain of seeing a pet sicken and die. For all these reasons it may seem counter intuitive to advocate pets for seniors. Let’s give it a try anyway.
A good pet is therapy. Who needs it? For seniors who live alone a pet makes the best of companions. Once you admit you love dogs or cats or birds, the pros quickly outweigh the cons. If the pet is a small dog you can train them to use newspaper and, of course, a cat has its litter box. What is sweeter than opening the door to your home and having a little creature greet you with unconditional love? You cuddle up with your pet to watch the evening news and make uncontested commentary on the reporting while scratching your pet’s head. What more can you ask for? It’s this companionship that makes any inconvenience of having a pet worthwhile.
Cons and Pros
Nonetheless, there things to keep in mind: Where is the nearest veterinarian, how expensive is pet food, is there someone who can keep your dog when you go on vacation or can you take him with you? Who will walk the dog when it snows? Still there are animals that are companionable yet require less attention, such as fish in an aquarium and birds in a cage. They’re not completely task free, but require less than a cat or dog.
Are there health benefits to living with a pet? Pets are known to reduce emotional and physical pain. According to www.healthspring.net, studies have shown that petting animals can bring down blood pressure and trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain that elevates mood. It isn’t surprising that seniors who own pets visit the doctor less often than those who don’t. Is there a pet in your future? For the sake of your health, it’s worth a thought!