10 Blessings of Having a Pet Later in Life

Having an animal companion—such as a dog, guinea pig or turtle—can be rewarding at any age. 

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- Posted on Apr 23, 2021

Senior cuddling with her dog

Are you thinking about getting a pet but hesitating because you’re of a certain age? Consider this: Having an animal companion can be just as rewarding when you’re over 65 as it was when you were younger. Here’s why:

1. Staying Active

Exercising a dog can help you to get the exercise you need too. Be mindful of your physical condition: The right dog with the right training could be the perfect partner for strolling around the block, hiking in the woods or whatever activity you enjoy. Likewise, a playful cat may inspire you to stretch and move, all while having fun.

2. Improving Your Health

Did you know that pets are good for your heart? Studies show that petting a cat or dog can actually lower your blood pressure. Spending time with your pet can also increase your oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone.

3. Finding Companionship

Public health experts are concerned about the loneliness epidemic in the United States, particularly among seniors. Live alone? Having a pet in the home means there is always someone there to greet you at the door and sit by your side.

4. Discovering Purpose

An empty nest or retirement can leave you feeling restless, even lost. Pets depend on you to take care of them, filling some of those voids. The level of care ranges from a dog, which requires significant time and energy, to fish, which are still engaging but require less attention.

5. Feeling Joy

A dog chasing a ball, a cat batting at your shoelaces or a guinea pig squeaking for a treat are all good for a laugh. Watching pets enjoy themselves can warm your heart. Consider the fun and games involved before choosing your companion.

6. Filling Your Schedule

Earlier in life, work and family kept you busy with no time to clean a litter box or walk a dog. Now, if your schedule is less demanding, a pet may fit in perfectly. Think about what kind of animal best suits your needs and interests. A toy poodle? A parakeet? A gecko?

7. Learning Something New

Keeping a pet, especially an uncommon one, is a way to expand your knowledge. Go beyond simply learning what your pet needs to stay healthy and happy. Research its origins. Try your hand at training—that way, you are both learning!

8. Relaxing

Sure, not all pets are relaxing all of the time. But have you ever wondered why many doctors’ waiting rooms contain aquariums? They’re calming—the serene water, the fish swimming back and forth, even the sound of the bubbles in the tank. If you like the idea of keeping an aquarium, talk to someone at your local pet shop to discern the type of fish and best setup for you.

9. Helping Another Senior

A senior pet, that is. Rescuing an animal is a wonderful way to provide a homeless pet with a family, but senior cats and dogs are often overlooked. Give a home to one of these less-adoptable pets, and you will both be rewarded.

10. Becoming More Social

If you feel awkward or anxious in social settings, a beloved pet is an easy conversation starter. People may even approach you while you’re walking your dog (“He’s beautiful. What breed is he?”). Before you know it, you’ve made a new friend.

Whether it’s a rabbit, turtle or basset hound, there are benefits to having a pet at any stage of life. Do your research, talk to family and friends and find the right animal for you and your household. Then enjoy all the relationship has to offer!

For more inspiring animal stories, subscribe to All Creatures magazine.

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