Contributed by Jim Cenname. While Orange County animal shelters are bursting at the seams it could be a win-win situation of Mom and Dad should have a pet. As a child I enjoyed the unconditional love of an orphaned dog. As a young adult I had dogs as pets and companions to my daughter. With so many seniors living alone a pet in need of care and a senior eager to have unconditional love could be a great match.
Studies have shown that pet owners live longer. As loneliness is a major challenge for older people, adopting a pet makes good sense. Not only will a pet be a loving companion, but it will also help with exercise and boredom. You just have to be careful to adopt the right pet, as some pets are better for older people than others.
Do consider a pet for you mom or dad, especially if they had pets when they were younger. If you choose to go that route, then what kind of pet?
Dogs. The size of the dog – as well as the breed – may be your biggest decision. Bigger dogs usually require fenced-in backyards and more exercise. Smaller dogs tend to be more protective of their owners. Smaller breeds are “lap dogs” and easier to transport, and usually are less energetic. There are, however, exceptions, such as high-strung breeds like Jack Russell terriers. Puppy or adult dog? Adult dogs have longer attention spans and do less damage to your house. However, with an older dog, you also acquire a dog who may have certain negative habits.
Cats. In some ways, cats can be a better choice than a dog as they tend to adjust to a wider variety of lifestyles. They do just as well in small apartment as big houses. Kittens, like puppies, tend to be more rambunctious and playful, whereas older cats are more settled and not so prone to roam. Visit a pet store or pound and get to know the various breeds before making a decision. Short-haired cats are easier to care for as they need less grooming.
Birds. Birds can also make good pets. Choices need to be made here as well. Cockatiels aren’t as nervous as parakeets and live longer. Some cockatiel owners even claim they’ve taught their birds to talk. Parrots make delightful pets and can be taught to talk, and tend to live a long time (so a senior may want to name a guardian).
When selecting a pet you should keep in mind some convenience and safety issues:
- Does Mom’s caregiver like pets? If they do you will have a better outcome.
- Can mom and dad see well enough to maneuver safely around a pet sleeping on the floor?
- Who is going to clean the litter box? Nightingale Senior Care employs caregivers that love cats and will willingly clean a litter box and scope poop from the back yard. Be sure your caregiver is on-board.
The following is a short list of places to look for pets:
- Buena Park Field/Shelter Services, South East Area Animal Control Authority, 9777 Seaaca Street, Downey, CA 90241
- La Habra Police Department Animal Services Division, (562) 905-9771
- Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, 20612 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA (949) 497-3552 · puplagunabeach.org
- Mission Viejo Animal Services Center, 28095 Hillcrest, Mission Viejo, CA, (949) 470-3045 · cityofmissionviejo.org