Thursday, May 10, 2012

Picking the Perfect Pet

Senior Thursday

When a senior outlives a spouse, the house is suddenly empty.  Loneliness can set in if the surviving spouse is not active or social.  Perhaps their health keeps them indoors.  Or maybe their family lives out of town.  So they turn to a pet for company.

However, this decision must be made intelligently, because the wrong pet can cause more damage than good.

So how do you decide which pet is best for you or your elderly parent?

·         Consider level of physical activity – If the senior is still active and will be taking walks or exercising, a dog will be a good companion on those walks.  If the senior is homebound, then a cat or bird is a better choice.
·         Consider the age of the owner – Is the senior 55 or 85?  Will they potentially have this pet for five years or twenty?  Birds can live more than 40 years.  What will happen to it when the owner passes away?  However, an older dog or cat can keep them company for several years and may or may not outlive the owner.
·         Consider the size and layout of the home – If the senior is living in a small apartment without direct access to a yard, then a large dog is not a good choice.  A cat or small dog would be a better option if the owner is able to walk the dog.
·         Consider the owner's physical limitations.  Small dogs and cats can create fall hazards, as can their toys and litter boxes.  Also, will the owner be able to clean up after a dog in the yard?
·         Consider the pet's temperament.  Breeds differ greatly in their behavior.  A well-trained dog can be a quiet, calm companion.  But a dog who consistently barks and nips at visitor's feet will only cause undue stress.  Research breed characteristics before choosing a pet.
·         Consider upkeep of the pet.  Can you afford the food, vet bills and grooming associated with a pet?  Can you brush a long-haired dog or cat?  Can you afford the licenses required from your community?
·         Consider the guidelines of your community.  Some communities allow dogs up to a certain size, some no pets at all, some just birds or fish.  Find out before you purchase a dog and get attached to it.

If you aren't sure what pet is best for you, consult your local veterinarian.

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