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The Best Pets for Seniors in Independent Living

A senior woman and her pet beagle look at a book together

A tail-wagging happy dance when you walk through the door. The soothing rhythm of a steady purr beside you on the couch. A friend who always seems to know when you’re feeling a little blue. These are just some of the reasons seniors treasure their pet companions.

Feel-good fuzzies aside, there’s a growing body of evidence supporting the health benefits of pets for seniors, which is a reason more and more pet-friendly independent living communities, including Stonebridge at Montgomery, are welcoming residents and their four-legged friends.


How Pets Affect Your Health

A pet’s antics can be a surefire way to lift your mood and make you chuckle. In addition to your mental health, studies show that pets play a role in reducing stress hormones, even after spending a brief 10-minute period petting your dog or cat.

Pets may also help with lowering blood pressure and other heart-health factors like cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The latter is often associated with the additional physical activity you’re likely to get when exercising or walking your pet.

There’s even some evidence that pets can help improve cognitive function, elicit memories from people with memory loss, and reduce agitation in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Pets also combat loneliness. Not only is a pet a companion itself, but having a pet also gives you a natural bond with other pet owners, which can lead to conversation and greater social engagement.


Best Pets for Seniors

Now that you know about the advantages of pets for seniors, you may be wondering which type of pet is best for you. Dogs and cats are the subjects of most studies on the health benefits of pets for seniors because they’re more interactive than other options.


Dogs: A dog is truly man’s best friend, but before you add a pooch to your family, you’ll want to consider the best fit for your retirement home. Smaller dogs that require moderate exercise and grooming are ideal for seniors. Remember if you’ll be living in a community, you’ll want a dog that is relatively receptive to other people and animals. Breeds like Shih Tzu, Maltese, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are all good choices. French bulldogs, pugs, and Yorkshire terriers are also popular pets for seniors. Age may also be another important consideration: Think about whether you’re up for training a puppy or whether an older rescue dog might suit you better.


Cats: While they tend to be more independent than their canine counterparts, cats can be wonderful pets for seniors who don’t want to be too strapped down by exercise regimens and potty breaks that come with dog ownership. Cats are generally self-sufficient. They bathe themselves, don’t need to be let outside, and can even be left safely for a day or two with an adequate supply of food and water if you take a brief trip out of town. Short-haired cats like the domestic shorthair are easy to care for, but many seniors also enjoy the soft, fluffy coat of a ragdoll or other longer-haired breeds.


Fish: If you’re hesitant about the care and commitment a dog or cat requires, a small fish tank might be a good alternative. Watching lively fish dart around a tank can have a soothing, therapeutic effect. A small 10-gallon tank requires minimal equipment and is relatively easy to keep clean. A good rule of thumb is one small fish per gallon. Danios, tetras, dwarf barbs, guppies, and bettas are all good choices for a small freshwater tank.


A Paws-itively Inviting New Home

Our sprawling grounds and well-maintained trails are perfect places for you and a furry friend to enjoy long walks. Visit Stonebridge at Montgomery to explore the living options in our pet-friendly community and envision making yourselves right at home.


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