Cats are revealed as the overall best pet for people in their senior years
The best cat breeds for later life are Ragdoll, Siamese and Maine Coon based on the cost, friendliness and ability to be around other pets and children
In 2nd place are dogs and indoor birds and guinea pigs came joint 3rd
When it comes to dogs, the Pug came out on top, followed by the West Highland Terrier
We’re a nation of animal lovers and this obsession with pets isn’t bound by age. Pets of all kinds can make the perfect companions for elderly people, but there are a few extra considerations needed when becoming the proud owner of a pet later in life.
Lottie is a comparison website allowing potential residents and families to find the perfect care home, but for this study, they’ve analysed a series of metrics to determine what the paw-fect pet is for those in their senior years. You can find the full piece here.
There’s a lot of evidence backing up the benefits of seniors owning a pet, like their impact on our mental health. A survey by The National Poll on Healthy Aging revealed that 86% of pet-owners aged 50 to 80 said their pets made them feel loved and 88% said that their pets helped them enjoy life.
Take a look below for an in-depth breakdown of the considerations needed when deciding on a pet in later life, as well as the best pets and breeds for seniors based on different requirements.
Which pets and factors were considered?
The pets analysed were cats, dogs, indoor birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, domestic fowl, fish, turtles and snakes. To determine which pet came out on top, an individual score (from 1 to 10) was granted to metrics including the cost of keep, the best pets to support mental health, neediness and ease of care to create an overall score.
Cats take the crown as the perfect pet for seniors
With a score of 29, it was cats who are deemed the most suitable pets for seniors, narrowly piping their rival counterparts, dogs (28). Cats scored highly on ease of care (8) and best pets for mental health (9).
When it comes to different cat breeds, there’s a lot to consider too. The Ragdoll cat was the winner, scoring in the top two scores in all factors apart from allergies. Next, there was not much to separate between Siamese, and Maine Coon. All of these scored top scores on friendliness and how good they are with children. You can take a look at the full breakdown and graphic of which cat breeds are best for older people at the bottom of this press release or on the campaign page here.
Best cats for seniors
Dogs came in 2nd
With an overall score of 28, dogs were just one point behind the title spot. Of course, not all dogs are appropriate for elderly people with a broad range of personalities across the breeds. Dogs scored highly of course for best pets for mental health with a top score of 10. Dogs however can require a lot of attention, meaning they scored 6 for ease of care.
Pugs came out on top as the best dogs for seniors scoring high with a favourable energy level and love required. The next best, which all scored similar to each other, were Cavaliers, Poodles and Poms. The dogs we deemed the least suitable for seniors are Yorkshire Terriers and the Queen’s favourite, Corgis. You can take a look at the full breakdown and graphic of which dog breeds are best for older people at the bottom of this press release or on the campaign page here.
Best dogs for seniors
Indoor birds and guinea pigs are the 3rd best pets for older people
Scoring high on ease of care (7) as well as support for mental health (6), indoor birds can make brilliant companions for elderly people. Birds such as parrots make excellent ESAs (emotional support animals) because of their ability to mimic human speech and their tendency for empathy.
Joint 3rd with birds are guinea pigs. Whilst the small furries do need cleaning regularly meaning the ease of care scored low (6), they’re affordable pets that show affection and can make a great companion.
Take a look below for the top 10 pets for people in later life:
To determine the best pet for elderly people, Lottie considered a series of metrics and can reveal the top pet from each category:
Cost of keep
Hamsters, rabbits, fish, and domestic fowl came out on top as the cheapest animals to care for and are great alternatives to cats and dogs as they can also require less time and energy.
Dogs cost around £1,875 per year whereas cats have a lifetime cost of up to £12,000. For overall most expensive, you’re looking at turtles and tortoises, primarily because their lifetimes are so long (50-75 years). Their lifespan alone makes them unsuitable for elderly owners.
Mental health support
Dogs are known to boost our moods and reduce stress so it’ll come as no surprise that they scored the highest for supporting our mental health (score of 10).
Thanks to their largely loving natures, dogs have a dramatic effect on improving mental health. This is only enhanced in that the owner will benefit from the exercise and fresh air from regular walks.
Cats might not have the same reputation as being as high energy and lovable as dogs, but their low-key and affectionate nature make them great emotional support companions. A 2019 Cats Protection survey of cat owners found that 93.7% said their kitty was beneficial to their mental health and they scored a 9 in the study.
Rabbits came third in the scoring for animals that support our mental health with a score of 8. Whilst not as popular as cats and dogs, rabbits can be an excellent support animal as they’re loving, gentle and small enough to sit on your lap – they also take up little space in the home so can be a perfect companion for an older person.
Neediness (level of love needed)
If you’re looking for a bit of companionship but want a less high maintenance option, fish (scoring 1) and hamsters (scoring 4) may be a perfect choice.
Cats are very independent and self-reliant, but require play for mental and physical stimulation as they are very intelligent. They’re introverts, so value their time alone, but they still need some love from their owner.
Dogs are well-known for their love, but also their neediness. They form very strong bonds with humans and with other dogs, making them extremely loyal and affectionate. This does come with responsibility, however, since you’ll need to offer an equal amount of love and attention back.
Not all animals are quite so affectionate, however. Snakes don’t form bonds with their owners but enjoy being looked after by humans as long as they are fed regularly and have a suitable enclosure.
Ease of care
Ease of care is an important factor for elderly people when choosing a pet. Exercise requirements, cleaning responsibilities and playtime all need to be considered.
Snakes are very low maintenance (scoring a 2) and can go for weeks without feeding. They also spend lots of time sleeping but they’re not quite as affectionate (or cuddly) as cats.
Again, cats came out as a great option for ease of care. As independent animals, they spent a lot of time exploring alone or sleeping making them incredibly easy to look after.
Dogs are one of the more difficult pets when it comes to ease of care (scoring an 8) however this is very dependent on the breed. For less mobile seniors, a dog may not be the best option but for those who are able to go for a daily walk, it can help boost both physical and mental health.
Guinea pigs and rabbits, on the other hand, require frequent cleaning. And when you consider you need multiple for them to be happy, this only makes cleaning more strenuous. Not ideal for elderly owners.
Although chickens might seem like a handful, keeping chickens doesn’t demand lots of time. Chickens are more than happy to roam around the garden or their run, occupying themselves with finding morsels of food. However, chasing after chickens to get them back in their coops could be demanding for older owners. They also need a garden which not every senior person will have access to.
It’s all about personal choice
The benefits pets can have on elderly people is life-changing. From mental health or physical health to unconditional love and self-esteem, the list of benefits is endless. It’s just choosing which one to get that is tricky. According to Lottie, the best pets for elderly people are cats. This is on account of their maintenance, cost and exceptional benefit to mental and physical health.
However, you must remember this is only advisory. People have different preferences and you are free to get whatever pet you’d like. Take a look at the full campaign here https://lottie.org/data-insight/paw-fect-pets-for-later-life-which-animals-make-the-best-companions-for-seniors/
About Lottie –
Lottie is a comparison website allowing potential residents and families to find the perfect care home. They support people through every step of the process.