Pets can bring incredible joy to retirement – and responsibility.
Oh, the joy of coming home, enthusiastically welcomed by your darling labradoodle or greeted by the soft purr of your rescued tabby. You just can’t put a price on that unconditional love and steadfast companionship or the value that adds to your life. It’s not hard to understand why many people see a pet when they picture their retirement years.
Caring for our pets can also translate into caring for ourselves. Walking the dog, for example, can improve your overall health. Petting a kitten can help reduce blood pressure and stress. In fact, owning a pet has been shown to increase your brain’s serotonin and dopamine, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, and give you a sense of purpose.
Other pet benefits include added daily structure – feeding, walks, attention and playtime – and friendships with other animal lovers. Not to mention that adopting one of the millions of pets in shelters can save a life even as it improves yours.
However, pets of all ages take work. Whatever type of pet you consider, be aware of its requirements and make sure you’re up for the task.
The right match: Consider your age, health and personality traits and the temperament and life expectancy of the animal you want to adopt. You’ll also want to select your new friend, in part, based on your anticipated lifestyle five to 10 years down the line.
The size factor: Many retirees choose smaller dogs or cats, which require less food compared to a larger animal, but may also require more attention and care. Choose carefully so you don’t have to surrender a pet you can no longer care for. Who knows, maybe your ideal pal ends up being a bird, fish, turtle or iguana. Depending on your physical and mental needs, a service pet could be a great choice, too.
For people between ages 40 and 80 who live alone, owning a dog can increase your life span by 33% and decrease your risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36%.
Road buddies: If you like to travel in retirement, plan accordingly and pack favorite blankets and toys for the trip. Consider transport crates or pet seat belts to keep your companion safe. And of course, integrate plenty of stops.
Helping hands: Even the most capable pet owners can get caught off guard. If your pet gets sick or has an emergency, it’s good to have someone you can call for assistance.
Info within reach: Keep important paperwork (vaccination records, microchip information, etc.) handy in case you need it quickly. It’s also good to have necessary contact numbers (vet and emergency clinic) in plain sight.
Americans, collectively, spend billions on our pets. Take a look at the 2017 figures:
- Over $29 billion in food
- Over $17 billion on veterinary care and pet insurance
- Over $15 billion on supplies and over-the-counter medications
- Over $6 billion on grooming and boarding
- Over $2 billion on live animal purchases
The love is priceless; the responsibility is not.
The average American pet owner spends $1,549 per year on a dog and $988 on a cat, most of it on food, vet care, grooming and boarding. Unforeseen medical costs add to the expenses, especially as an animal ages, leading some pet owners to purchase health insurance to ensure their animal gets the care they need without adding financial stress on the family.
High Affection, No Maintenance
For those who can’t commit to caring for an animal companion, there are options. Several researchers and tech companies have introduced lifelike, socially assistive robo-pets for use in elder care or special needs environments. These amazingly realistic pals are making a mark in the medical field as much as they do on hearts.
Studies have shown that robo-pets can have a calming effect on people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementias. From puppies and kittens, to otters and many more, these “pets” help soothe anxiety and reduce isolation. Many nursing facilities are now incorporating robo-pets into their animal therapy programs, particularly helpful if someone becomes agitated in the middle of the night.
It may seem odd at first, but anecdotal reports show that those who interact with robotic therapy pets seem to receive rewards that are as real as it gets. If you still want the real deal, consider fostering or borrowing a pet for a day or two. Several apps and nonprofits help connect animal lovers with shelter animals that need companionship, too.
With just a little research, retirees who would like the perfect buddy can enjoy one of the most priceless bonds imaginable, without breaking the bank. The key is finding the pet that is right for you and your family. So if you’re ready for some licking, laughter and tail wagging, get digging!