Seniors and Pets: Part 1

By Jadranko Tomic Bobas, J.D., Managing Hotline Attorney, and Angela Quinn, Legal Hotline Intern  

Many people have a family pet that they cherished growing up. While many families own a pet for various reasons, such as teaching a child responsibility, pets can also serve a valuable role in the life of a senior. Pets provide social interaction and physical activity for older adult owners. Pets reduce depression and stress by lessening loneliness for their owners by providing a constant companion.  

However, there are significant factors to consider when deciding whether you would benefit from the companionship of a pet. Is a pet right for you? How will they be provided for if something happens to you? If you are hospitalized – who will care for the pet? Is there someone nearby who knows of the pet? 

Here are some things to consider when deciding if you are ready for a pet. 

  • You want a pet and are flexible and willing to accommodate everyday care for the pet. 
  • You are physically able to take care of a pet with the proper exercise and nutrition. 
  • You can financially support a pet by paying for food, medical care, toys, and grooming.  

Rover, a Seattle-based pet-sitting company, figures the yearly average cost for a dog is $2,858 which includes pet sitting ($25 per night), dog training ($40 per hour), teeth cleaning (at least $400) and emergency vet bills (can be thousands of dollars).  

Pets have individual needs, varied life spans, and different financial requirements. 

What should you consider when choosing the best type of pet? 

  • Lifespan of the pet – a parrot may live an average of 80 years or more. 
  • Age of the pet – a puppy will demand more care and training (with the potential for more messes) than an adult dog. A young pet may also outlive its owner, but an elderly dog may have physical limitations and require the owner to carry or assist it.  
  • Temperament and size of the pet should also be considered in choosing a pet. Some smaller dogs, such as beagles, have been typically used for hunting or working, and thus have very high energy levels and require a physically active owner. 
  • Cost of care – typically the larger the animal, the more food it will consume, and the more money it will ultimately cost.  

If you cannot financially or physically care for a pet, consider looking into an assisted living home that has pets on site or daily pet visitation hours so that you can enjoy the emotional and psychological benefits of being around animals.       

Stay tuned for Seniors and Pets: Part 2, which will go into estate planning for your pet.