Benefits of pets in older age

King Frederick of Prussia once said "a dog is a man’s best friend" and while this is a very true statement there are many pets that can also make the perfect companion, especially for people in later life.  

What are the benefits of owning a pet in older age?

The companionship of an animal has been found to have many benefits such as reducing stress, increasing social interaction, lowering blood pressure and increasing physical activity.

Pets can also help to alleviate symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety.

If it's a dog you're contemplating, many dog walkers form local walking groups to meet fellow dog owners, which is a great way for you to socialise and meet new people and also allows your dog to spend time with other four legged friends.

Owning a dog can often be a sense of security for some people as they are very loyal pets and can help alleviate any worries of safety.

Now I'm older, what is the perfect pet for me?

There are many things to consider when looking for a new pet and it is important to choose a pet that would best suit your lifestyle.

If you enjoy walking and would like some company on a long walk through the park, a dog may be the perfect companion for you. Consider what size dog you would be comfortable with as some dogs grow to be quite big and can be powerful on their lead. You should also think about the size of your home and what size dog would be suitable.

If you are looking for something a little less hands-on and enjoy being in the comfort of your own home, then a cat might be a better option. Spending cosy evenings snuggled up on the sofa with a cat sounds like a perfect way to spend an evening. 

Of course, there are a myriad of other options from birds to rabbits, guinea pigs to something a little more exotic like lizards. 

Whichever breed or species you choose be sure to do your research online and speak to a specialist for any advice you're seeking. Places such as Pets at Home or your local veterinary surgery can offer lots of advice and suggestions to suit your lifestyle.

I've done my research but I still don’t know which pet to choose. Now what?

A recent survey showed that the most popular pet was a dog, with cats being a close second. Some other popular pets are fish, birds, rabbits, small mammals (gerbil/hamster) a lizard or a tortoise.

Still seeking inspiration, why not trial looking after other peoples pets first? You can sign up to services such as Borrow my Doggy or Rover and get paid to look after pets whilst their owners are busy or on holiday.

Where should I look for a new pet?

While there a lot of places, particularly online that you can find your new companion, a great place to start would be a local rescue centre. There are thousands of pets looking for their forever home and being able to give a pet a loving home is a very rewarding experience. Some of the amazing animal charities you could contact are RSPCA, The Dogs Trust, Cats Protection or a local rescue close to you.

If you choose to get a pet from a breeder be sure to do your research first to ensure it's not a scam. This guide from Pets4Homes offers so excellent advice to avoid common pitfalls and scams when buying from a breeder.

What else should I consider before getting a pet in older age?

It is important to research the right pet for you, some things to consider are:

Time – how much time is needed to take care of your new pet, i.e. how often will it need to be walked/cared for?

Cost – There will be an initial donation if you are getting a pet from a rescue centre or a price to pay from a private seller. You will also need to consider the cost of food, vets bills and insurance etc.

Age - it is important to check the age of your pet, some people are happy to take on an older pet, while some would rather have a younger pet that they can have for many years.

Health – If you are getting a pet from a rescue centre, it is important to check their history and whether they have any existing medical conditions.

At Abbeyfield some of our houses have their own pets, such Twiglet the cocker spaniel at Abbeyfield Brecon Society and the alpacas at Armstrong House in Northumberland. They bring so much joy to our residents, who enjoy spending time with them.

“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”,  Anatole France.