For many seniors, pets play a significant role in improving their quality of life because they are a wonderful source of comfort and companionship. Emotional support animals can reduce loneliness, which is a major problem for seniors throughout the U.S. Caring for an animal companion can also give seniors a sense of purpose, and people with Alzheimer's often find interacting with a pet to be very therapeutic.
But what are the best support animals for seniors? Dogs and cats are popular choices, but they're not right for everybody. Dogs in particular may be too rambunctious or high-maintenance for many seniors, especially those who have mobility issues and who don't have the help of home care services. Seniors with allergies may also be unable to adopt a dog or a cat. Fortunately, there are plenty of other emotional support animals to choose from.
5 Unique Emotional Support Animals for Seniors
Here are five offbeat pets that seniors are sure to love:
Birds are small and many do not require much maintenance, which makes them ideal for seniors who don't have much room for pets. There's also a type of bird out there for every owner. Canaries and finches are pleasant to listen to and don't require a lot of interaction. Parakeets need more attention from their owners, but they can also be taught to speak, which is a lot of fun for many people. Some birds require more attention than others, so it is important to choose a bird that is a good fit for the senior’s lifestyle.
Seniors who are allergic to furry animals might enjoy having fish. Fish require a specific environment to thrive, so it's important for seniors to learn how to set up and maintain a fish tank properly. A family member or home caregiver can also help with this. Once the tank is set up, fish are very low-maintenance pets. They come in a rainbow of colors, and watching them swim around their tank can be highly relaxing.
Rats, as well as similar pets like hamsters and mice, can make fun pets for seniors who want a small animal. Domestic rats are not like their wild counterparts — they are very tame and quite affectionate. Studies have proven that rats are even naturally altruistic. They do need companionship, so it is best to get two. Mice, rats, and hamsters all require frequent cage cleanings to avoid smells, so if a senior has mobility issues, they may require the help of home care services.
For the right person, a rabbit can be a great home companion. Much like cats, rabbits all have their own personality — some are playful and some are meek. Rabbits can be trained to use a litter pan, and some owners let them roam around the house freely. Other people prefer to keep their rabbit in a cage for most of the day. Seniors who want a caged rabbit should be aware that rabbits, unlike smaller rodents, do need to get out of their cage for a couple of hours every day. Otherwise they won't get enough exercise.
Like rabbits, ferrets are another often-overlooked furry pet. Ferrets are the highest-maintenance pet on this list — they're friendly and active, and they need a lot of attention. Ferrets are also curious, and they need to be watched closely so they don't get themselves into trouble. But for active seniors who want a unique pet, a ferret can be a very rewarding choice.
Home Care Services and Emotional Support Animals
An emotional support animal can bring a lot of joy to a senior's life. And even seniors who might have difficulty caring for a pet on their own can enjoy the benefits of an emotional support animal if they have the help of home care services. A home caregiver can feed and water pets, clean cages, and do other things that seniors might have trouble with, giving seniors more time to enjoy the company of their furry (or scaly, or feathered) friends.
If a senior wants an animal companion but is unsure of what kind is best for them or what the commitment in caring for the animal will involve, consider fostering an animal first. Many animal rescue organizations have short-term foster programs and are constantly in need of animal foster parents. And of course, if the senior becomes attached to the animal they are fostering, they can decide to adopt them as their permanent pet.
If you are a senior or have a senior loved one who is interested in home care services, please reach out to Alegre Home Care at one of our many Northern California locations.