Skip to main content

Grandma needs a loyal companion: The 4 best pets for the elderly

Lynn, a retired widow, shares her home with two rescue dogs and a rescue cat. In a research study published in the International Journal of Community Wellbeing, the senior said that her pets are her life. “I love every minute I spend with them,” she told researchers. While there’s no doubt that pets play a huge role in the lives of their owners, studies reveal that animal companions provide enormous health benefits for older adults.

Why should seniors have pets?

For seniors like Lynn who have lost spouses or for elderly people who live alone, pets play a major role in overcoming loneliness. Additionally, dogs provide seniors with a sense of security and safety. Other benefits for older adults living with pets include:

  • Caring for pets provides a sense of purpose.
  • Spending time with pets helps seniors find peace in the moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, owning a pet can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, stress, and anxiety.
  • Daily walks with dogs increase a senior’s mobility.
  • Dogs provide an opportunity for social interaction during walks around the community.
Senior woman walking her dog.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What animals do the elderly like?

Every senior is different when it comes to what is desired in an animal companion. Retirees who like to travel prefer smaller dogs to accompany them on trips. Some older adults look for calm walking buddies while others want a furry friend to curl up on their laps. Many seniors prefer to steer clear of younger pets like puppies and kittens that require more time and attention. Additionally, energetic puppies and kittens pose a health risk to seniors with mobility issues. Older animals are typically the pet of choice for retirees because they adjust easily to a quieter lifestyle. For seniors with allergies birds and fish are often the pets of choice.

What is the best pet for an elderly person?

Before bringing home an animal companion, a senior’s health needs, mobility, financial concerns, and personality need to be considered, say experts at A Place for Mom. A support system is also important with a family member or friend committing to help care for the pet or take over complete responsibility if the need arises.


Smaller senior dogs make perfect companions for older adults. They are calm and the majority are housebroken, trained to walk quietly on a leash, and have basic obedience training. Older dogs enjoy going for walks and are equally happy to curl up on the couch with their owner to watch TV or read a book.


Older cats are a great option for seniors, especially those who spend a lot of time at home. Cats are happy to stay indoors and enjoy spending long hours curled up in a warm lap. According to American Humane, most adult cats require only 20 to 30 minutes of playtime per day. A fishing pole or laser beam toy can be used to entertain a kitty, and that can be done from the comfort of a chair for seniors with reduced mobility.


Birds, especially parakeets, are great pets for seniors. They require minimal clean-up and maintenance while providing wonderful companionship. They are a great option in retirement communities where dogs or cats aren’t allowed. While parakeets are vocal they don’t screech or scream like larger species of parrots. They are intelligent, affectionate birds who enjoy human interaction.


According to experts at Aviva In-Home Care, rabbits provide many benefits to older adults.  They are small and quiet, making them a great choice in a retirement community. Rabbits are sociable and like to be petted by their special person. They can be taught to use a litter box and don’t need to go outside. They are also relatively easy to care for just needing daily feedings, fresh water, and a clean litter box. Additionally, they enjoy being brushed, offering a great way for seniors to relax and bond with their fluffy friends.

Senior man cuddling a rabbit.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In conclusion

All across the U.S., there are wonderful programs that match older adults with older dogs and cats in need of loving homes. The nonprofit Pets for the Elderly works with 57 shelters in 35 states to match senior pets with senior citizens. For adopters ages 60 and over, the organization covers the adoption fee and offers financial support for veterinary expenses and pet food. Seniors can turn to to find smaller pets in need of homes. By adopting a pet, a senior gains a valuable friend while saving a life.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
8 autumn Instagram pet photographs that will get you excited for the gorgeous season ahead
Fall Instagram pet photos sweeter than a pumpkin spice latte
a dog and woman cuddling on fall woodland walk

Fall is such a fun and inspirational time of year. Nature offers up some awesome colors as leaves turn from lush green to stunning shades of red, yellow, and orange. Farm fields are dotted with orange pumpkins, and people and pets get to dress up for Halloween. It’s the perfect season for taking photos of your pet. We scoured social media. Here are our favorite autumn Instagram pet photos.

Dogs falling for autumn on Instagram
These pups have an extra pep in their steps as the seasons change. They're dressing up, winding down, and taking scenic routes.

Read more
The 6 biggest myths about Chihuahuas, debunked once and for all
Chihuahua fact or fiction? Here's the truth behind 6 common myths about these small dogs
A black Chihuahua against a yellow backdrop

Chihuahuas are a small breed with a big personality. Some have a Napoleon complex — they totally think they can take on the mail carrier, and they will threaten to do so. Purebred Chihuahuas don’t exceed 6 pounds, so their valiant efforts can be more comedic than anything. Their reputation as an opinionated, snuggly, and incredibly loyal breed precedes them, and more than a few dog owners dream of being a Chihuahua's favorite person.
However, not every part of their reputation is true, and there are more than a few myths about these lovable dogs. We’re debunking them and giving you straight Chihuahua facts.

Myth 1: Chihuahuas don’t need much exercise
This statement is one of the biggest Chihuahua myths. Though the breed is small, Chihuahuas are full of energy and need stimulation. Any dog can become overweight, and Chihuahuas are particularly prone to obesity. Physical activity is one way to keep your Chihuahua healthy. While they don’t need as much physical activity as a larger breed, such as a Labrador Retriever, they need frequent exercise. About 30 minutes of walking and playing per day should do, and it’s a great way to bond. Some dogs may need more or less, depending on their age and overall health. Talk to your vet.

Read more
These national parks are stunning in the fall – and allow your dog to visit, too
These 4 beautiful national parks have pet-friendly attractions
Couple looking at map on fall trail with dog.

With cooler fall temperatures just around the corner, pet parents dream of taking their dogs on long outdoor adventures. Some might even be planning pet-friendly getaways. Autumn is certainly a wonderful time to get outside and enjoy nature, and where better to do this than in a U.S. national park? Many of these wonderful parks are pet-friendly. Here we highlight four national parks that are incredible in the fall and perfect for both of you.

Are dogs allowed in national parks?
The good news is that most national parks do allow pets in some areas and under certain conditions. Only a few deny pets in all parts of the park — so you can easily plan an outing or vacation for you and your four-legged friend. However, it's important to follow the rules, especially when it comes to hiking and wildlife. The National Park Service uses the acronym B.A.R.K. to sum up the four basic principles you should follow while in the parks with your pets. It stands for:

Read more