If you think adoption is for you or another older adult in your life, you’ll want to research the right type of animal as well as the breed. It’s important to make sure that the pet is a good fit for an older adult. If not, that pet can cause stress and even pose a safety concern. Here are a few things to think about when considering the type of pet, you or an older adult may want to adopt: Smaller may be better. A smaller animal, especially when it comes to dog breeds, may be a better fit for a senior. Care of a dog includes regular exercise for the animal such as walks through the neighborhood. If you’re unprepared to deal with a heavier animal, you could get pulled over and fall, which is never a good thing for a senior. If you do decide on a larger animal, pet store chains and small independent owners may offer classes or lists of animal trainers in your area. Breeds such as shih tzus, poodles, Maltese and miniature schnauzers oftentimes appeal to older adults. Other good smaller animal options are turtles, hamsters, gerbils, fish and birds. Be sure to learn about the care and handling of these animals before you adopt, though. Older is often calmer. While a smaller animal could be a better fit, so too could an older pet. If you want a dog that sleeps at your feet, choose a lower energy, older animal. Another benefit is that senior dogs and cats often are harder to adopt so many are looking for a good home and can be a perfect match for older adults. Active seniors, though, shouldn’t shy away from a higher energy pet. Active pets provide a good excuse for exercise. Look for ease of care. Pets of any kind are a commitment, but some animals require less care than others. Fresh water fish, for instance, can be a great alternative for seniors who want a pet that doesn’t require a lot of attention. What’s more, some fish and pet stores offer aquarium-cleaning services. Gerbils, hamsters and rats are surprisingly clean and don’t need a large amount of care. Bearded dragon lizards can live in tanks or aquariums and often provide an interesting pet for seniors as well as children. Independence can be a plus. While all animals require attention, some are more independent than others. Cats hit the sweet spot. They don’t need to go outside nor do they need a large amount of care: a litter box, food and water. They do need to be played with, but you can do that sitting or lying down. Best of all, they love to cuddle. Longevity matters. You might not think much about the age of an animal when you adopt, but it’s worth consideration. Many older adults don’t want their pets to outlive them. Parrots, for instance, can live up to 60 years! In contrast, small animals such as gerbils live two to five years while rabbits can live 10-15 years.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.