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The Best Pets for Seniors in Independent Living

A senior couple walking their dog

There’s just something about having a pet that adds a wonderful, fulfilling dimension to our lives. Today’s forward-thinking retirement communities like Crestwood Manor support and encourage well-behaved companion pets for senior residents.

It’s been well documented that caring for animals, whether it’s a dog or cat, or even birds or aquarium fish, has many health benefits, both physical and emotional. Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, and cope better in stressful situations thanks to lower blood pressure. It’s even been found that pet owners over age 65 make 30%  fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.

Having  a dog helps increase your daily exercise, while having any type of pet––even a rabbit, guinea pig, or parakeet––provides companionship and reduces feelings of loneliness.

Most importantly, owning a pet gives you something to care about and care for besides yourself. That can add healthy structure to your life and give you purpose, as well as a happier outlook.


Finding the Perfect Pet Match

If you’re fortunate to be a resident in a pet-friendly independent living community like Crestwood Manor, you have choices about the types of pets to own. Among the best pets for seniors, dogs and cats always top every list. But birds such as canaries and parakeets are also popular, as are aquarium fish and even small lizards.

Keep in mind that you’re never too old to have a pet, provided your health and your lifestyle can accommodate the needs of the type of pet you choose.

For example, if having a dog sounds appealing, you’ll need to attend to a walking schedule, grooming if needed, and covering the cost and responsibility of veterinary care. Cats, of course, won’t need to be walked, but cat boxes need to be cleaned, and your cat will need to go to the vet and have the occasional nail clipping. These days, it’s easy to find a dog walker if you need one, and a pet sitter if you want to travel or have other reasons to be away from home.

Birds, lizards, and fish all need to be fed and cared for regularly and, of course, there are cages to be cleaned and vet visits as needed. Again, there are pet sitters who cater to these types of pets, so it’s still possible to be away from home for longer periods of time.

Another factor that pet owners sometimes forget to consider is the animal’s lifespan and how that might impact your life down the road. Depending on the breed, dogs typically live 10 to 15 years, cats can live to be 18 or older, and parakeets usually live 10 to 15 years. 


Dog Breeds for Independent Living Residents

There are numerous breed sites online that can help you better understand the ideal characteristics of pets for seniors. While puppies and kittens are cute as can be, keep in mind they need a lot of extra care and attention in the early years. That’s why older dogs and cats are often the smartest choice for pet owners of a certain age. Shelters are filled with older loving, well-behaved pets, and they can make wonderful companions. 

As you search for the perfect dog, you’ll probably also want to avoid high-energy pups that need lots of daily exercise, as well as larger breeds (too big for apartment life). Also avoid dogs with a strong herding instinct, like Mini Aussies––they might try to herd you and possibly cause you to trip and fall.

Below are a few tried-and-true small- and medium-sized breeds to consider. Check out The Spruce online for more details about the dogs on this list, as well as other small- to medium-sized dogs that make good companion pets for seniors.


Small Dogs for Seniors: Shih Tzu, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle

Temperament: Easygoing,  affectionate, adaptable. Weight: 7–12 lbs.


Medium Dogs for Seniors: Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Westie, Miniature Poodle

Temperament: Fun-loving, smart, relatively low maintenance. Weight: 10–19 lbs.  


Cats and Other Companion Animals

Prefer pets for seniors that require a little less hands-on care, but still offer companionship? Cats make wonderful apartment dwellers, and if you stick to the shorthaired varieties, you won’t need to groom them or end up with a ton of pet hair on your furniture. Cats are fastidious about cleaning themselves and are easily trained to use their own “toilets,” otherwise known as litter boxes. Of course, those do need to be cleaned, but with a cat, there’s no leash and walking involved.

Small aquariums are relaxing to calmy observe and easy to care for; the soft bubbling of the filter system is rather soothing too! Your local aquarium shop can help you choose a well-balanced variety of fish and be a good resource when it comes to setup, feeding, and maintenance.

Small birds can make wonderful companions, and even be taught to “talk” and do tricks if you’re inclined to work with them. It’s also comforting to listen to birdsong and chatter. You’ll often see canaries, finches, or parakeets displayed in large cages in retirement living common areas. Clearly pets with wings are a popular choice when it comes to pets for seniors!


At Crestwood Manor, Pets Are Family Too.

We know how much pets can add to the quality of people’s lives, and we welcome well-behaved furry friends (as well as feathered and finned friends) to be a part of our independent living community. We’d love to share more information about what it’s like to be a resident of Crestwood Manor and how pets can fit right into our relaxed, friendly lifestyle. Get in touch today and let’s talk. We look forward to meeting you.

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