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Are you a senior interested in owning a pet? Make sure you read this

We’re taking a deeper dive into owning a pet as a senior. Previously, we’ve covered the positives having a pet may have on your life as a senior. Now, we’re going to look at some of the potential considerations that may influence your decision-making processes.

Here’s what you should consider as a senior before committing to owning a pet

How is your health?

Owning a pet can be great for encouraging us to be fit and active. They can also be a wonderful way to reduce stress, end loneliness and support mental health.

However, pets also need us to enjoy a certain quality of health and mobility. This may even influence the kind of pet you end up choosing.

Think about day-to-day needs when owning a pet and see if they are compatible with your health requirements.

For example, some areas you may wish to consider are:

  • Can you walk a dog on a regular basis? If not, perhaps a cat, bird, fish, rabbit or guinea pig may be a more suitable choice
  • Can you bend to regularly clean up after your pet? This may influence what kind of pet you get or how you train them to toilet or where their enclosure resides
  • Do you have any breathing issues to consider? Fur can trigger issues in lung complaints, asthma and in people with allergies. This may limit you to owning a pet that is hairless
  • How is your manual dexterity? The smaller the pet, the fiddlier their collar, leash or toys may be
  • Are you affected by disability and periods of ill-health that significantly disrupt your ability to care for yourself? Do you require regular hospital visits? Checking to see if someone can pet sit for you if this is the case is a good idea. Or choosing a pet that can be boarded with ease and at the right level of cost for your budget

Don’t forget, puppies and kittens can be bundles of energy that may not be suitable with some health profiles. However, as we’ve discussed previously, senior pets might be the compatible mix you seek.

Where will you live?

Some pets live longer than others. This life expectancy may influence some of your future plans.

For example, if you believe you will be downsizing from house to unit or unit to retirement village, the pet you choose now may negatively impact these plans later.

You may wish to consider whether a pet is allowed under strata title or at the accommodation you plan to move to.

Renting with a pet can also increase the price you pay per week as well as add additional costs such as regular flea treatments or deeper cleaning required when you exit. It may also limit the choices available to you as sadly, not all rentals are pet friendly.

You’ll need to consider if your housing and a pet are compatible choices in the short and longer term.

Will you be traveling?

A cute small white dog sits in a field. It's attached to an article on the things to weigh up as a senior debating owning a pet.

Photo by Zoe Ra via Unsplash

Many Australians choose to make travel domestically or abroad a large part of retirement. And why not? It’s a wonderful way to kick off the next phase in your life and enjoy less obligations to work and family.

Owning a pet and having a full travel itinerary may change some of the ways you enjoy this new adventure.

Owning a pet can influence retirement travel plans. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will you be traveling? For example, it might be easier to bring a dog along to an outback adventure in a Winnebago than say a fish, rabbit or cat
  • Do the places you would like to visit have pet-friendly accommodation? E.g. camping grounds, hotels and Airbnb properties available
  • Will your pet need additional medical support to travel safely? E.g. specific immunisations such as rabies inoculations
  • Does that travel include stints overseas and/or interstate that may not allow your pet to accompany you? If so, can you afford to board your pet?
  • For pets other than cat or dog, are options for their safe care readily available to you?
  • What kind of impact will a separation from you have on your pet’s emotional wellbeing?
  • Does your pet have the personality well-suited to the grey nomad lifestyle?
  • Is quarantine a consideration? This can have both a stress impact and a financial one on your travel plans
  • Are you required to submit documents as part of your overseas travel plans? Many countries will require you to prove your pet is rabies-free, immunised and of reasonable health prior to granting them permission to enter another country

Think about owning the pet not only as a present concern, but with your future plans in mind. That way, you and your family pet can enjoy a stress-free bond.

Do you have access to local pet care services?

Some older Australians choose to move when they retire. It might not be an all day, everyday occurrence but think about how you may need to transport your pet if you have one.

For example, if you join the growing trend of older Australians downsizing to inner city or suburban apartments, you may ditch the car. What will this mean for transporting to the groomers, vet clinic or boarding kennel of your choice?

If you decide to move regionally to enjoy the quiet life or follow the grandkids, will where you land have the services you need such as vet, groomer, pet food store and more you need to access?

Are there dog walkers in your local area? Can you attend puppy class with ease? If you need it, can you get access to an animal behaviourist?

These sorts of choices may influence your decisions.

Of course, if you plan to remain in the Wahroonga area, these decisions are made easy by Fox Valley Animal Hospital’s Pooch Parlour for in-house grooming, wide range of pet toys, pet foods, a puppy school and more. Plus, we’re a veterinary clinic that can help you look after the health and wellbeing of your new pet.

Do you need to consider trip hazards?

Dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, they can all run in front, surprise us or make interesting decisions when it comes to movement. This is why it’s essential to consider your mobility, balance and ability to manage the potential for your pet to trip you over.

As we get older, we need to consider our own bone density. A fall may have greater impact on our body through changes in bone density levels. There is also growing research to show that trips and falls can have a psychological impact on our trust for the pet and our bodily confidence.

Jumping pets may also pose a significant problem if you have issues with balance or movement.

This may mean investing more time and energy into training a pup not to jump or to have specific commands that halt movement. It may influence the age and size of the pet you decide to choose. Or it may influence what kind of pet you own. Or whether owning a pet is for you.

Is owning a pet affordable?

Ask any vet clinic and they will tell you owning a pet can be quite expensive. There are a lot of costs you need to consider in the lifetime of your pet.

You will need to have budget for:

  • Regular check-ups, immunisation and general veterinary care
  • Good quality nutrition
  • Housing materials such as straw or substrate for rabbits, guinea pigs and aquarium upkeep for fish and reptiles
  • Kitty litter and other toileting aids
  • Pet toys for enrichment, stress reduction and play
  • Grooming, cleaning and clipping
  • Pet insurance
  • Pet sitting and boarding OR extra costs related to pet-friendly travel
  • Appropriate housing for you and the pet in question
  • Training and associated costs such as transportation to training classes, pet trainers and so on
  • Acquired injuries, mishaps, disabilities, health conditions and/or old age
  • Additional costs outlined above regarding your housing, travel and other plans
  • Burial and end of life

Always consider the financial impact owning a pet may have on your lifestyle prior to making the commitment.

Owning a pet the right way

If you are considering your pet ownership options, feel free to call on Fox Valley Animal Hospital. We’re happy to help you with advice, a roadmap to a happy life with your pet, pet care support, veterinary health advice and more.

Let us help make owning a pet a positive experience by calling us on (02) 9489 4805 today.

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.