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The health perks of pets for seniors

Here’s how pets support the health and happiness of seniors and the best types of pets for aging adults.

Do you remember the feeling of getting your first pet as a kid (or maybe as an adult)? Chances are, you probably remember every pet you’ve had since, and have loved them all just as much. 

There’s something special about the human-to-pet relationship. And this relationship doesn’t grow any duller the older we get. 

There’s a reason pets give us the warm and fuzzies…not only are they fun and lovable, but it turns out they’re good for our health! This especially applies to the health of seniors. 

Pets not only provide smiles for grandma and grandpa, but it turns out they can also benefit the heart, reduce depression, and improve cognitive function. 

Here’s how pets support the health and happiness of seniors, and the best types of pets for aging adults.

The health perks of pets for seniors

What’s good for your heart is good for your overall health. And nothing proves this quite as much as your pets.

Not only does the companionship of a pet helps reduce loneliness, it helps lower blood pressure and decrease rates of depression, too.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 1 in 4 older adults are physically inactive, and only 20% meet health guidelines for their age. 

An alarming fact considering physical activity is one of the most important things a senior adult can do for their health to sustain muscle mass and prevent heart disease and cancer. 

Dogs and cats enjoy playing periodically throughout the day, which helps keep seniors mentally engaged and more active. From a walk to the park to a toss of the ball in the yard, it all adds up to healthy perks! 

Caretaking has some health benefits of its own. Having a pet to care for can help seniors find a sense of purpose, which is something we crave at all phases of life.

But which pets are the best for seniors, and how do you make sure they’re both taken care of? Here’s how pets support the health and happiness of seniors, and the best types of pets for aging adults.

The best pets for seniors 

It’s important to remember that the pet will need just as much from its new owner as the owner does. 

Consider the following before taking the next step toward bringing a pet into your family:

  • Access to Activity: Most dogs will need plenty of space to run and explore. Make sure the new pet will get the walks and activity it needs, and that whatever means of exercise you choose will last longer than a couple years. 
  • Grooming: When it comes to brushing, bathing, and other means of grooming, do you have a back-up plan if it becomes too big of a task for your family member?
  • Expense: In your pet budget, be sure to include medical expenses, flea and tick prevention, toys, care services, pet boarding during vacations, etc. 
  • Case of emergency: Every year, around 6.5 million pets are surrendered to shelters. Try to avoid being part of the statistics and have a backup plan in case something doesn’t work out. 

Best types of pets for seniors

It’s probably not a good choice to surprise your Aunt Greta with a puppy when she was raised with cats, or your Uncle Hank with a bird when all he ever owned was a fun-loving Labrador. 

Different breeds offer different values and challenges when it comes to care. Below are the ideal dog, cat and bird breeds for seniors:


  • Poodle: Poodles are known for being loyal, smart and low-shedding, which makes them easier to groom. Depending on the living situation, you can aim for a standard size or a small toy poodle. 
  • Cocker spaniel: Cockers tend to have an even temperament. They also have plenty of energy, so be sure they’re on a good walking and playing schedule.
  • Boston terrier: Boston Terriers are adaptable, loyal, and easy to train. Not to mention conveniently sized!
  • Pugs: Most pugs are personable, affectionate and don’t require much exercise. 
  • Bassett hound: Basset hounds can be stubborn when it comes to training, but make up for it in lovability. They’re affectionate and love to stay by your side and come with easy grooming. 


  • Birman: Birmans are affectionate with the whole family, making it easier for caretakers to pitch in or grandchildren to visit. They’re also good at gently vocalizing when they need something, like to go out for the bathroom.
  • Himalayan: Himalayans are great for people looking for a snuggle buddy. They’re calm, gentle, and playful. 
  • Russian blue: The beautiful Russian Blue is a well-adjusted breed that will easily get along with loved ones and visitors. 
  • Burmilla: The Burmilla is playful without being overactive or hard to handle, being sure to keep its owner entertained with plenty of love and play time. 
  • Snowshoe: The Snowshoe cat is a newer breed, first found in the early 1960’s. They’re popular for they adorable looks as well as their fun personality and overall good health. 

Alternative pets

Beyond dogs and cats, there are other critters who can make a great companion for seniors:

  • Rabbits: Rabbits are quiet, low maintenance, and most enjoy a good snuggle here and there. 
  • Birds: Many breeds of birds are happy to entertain with and bond with a new owner. Some will even chat with them!
  • Fish: A little aquarium (or fish bowl) can be very soothing, and allows for creativity as you set up the habitat and choose which fish to bring in.

Helping with care

Some seniors need little assistance with any of their day-to-day activities. But if your loved one needs a little helping hand with their new furry or feathered friend, here are ways you or a caretaker can help out:

  • Take them supply shopping and be sure to get large things they couldn’t typically lift themselves, like large bags of food or litter.
  • Help with the occasional pet walk or run, or find someone reliable to step in when you can’t.
  • Ailments like arthritis can make it hard to lift a pet into a bathtub or properly brush. Help out with grooming when possible, or introduce your family member to a nearby groomer.
  • Help your friend or family member keep the pet’s medical records and mark dates on their calendar when things like vaccinations are due. 
  • Once you’ve decided a pet is right, chose the perfect breed, and know what you need to get set up, it’s time to take one of the most important steps. Avoid any unexpected costs and keep your new family member safe with pet insurance from Pets’ Best

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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