June 4th is National Hug Your Cat Day. Huffington Post has you covered with “How to hug a cat“, full of adorable pictures of all the ways to celebrate National Hug Your Cat day (and beyond). It’s also a good time to think about how our furry friends add to our lives and how much a pet can mean to an older adult. We’ll share some information on cat/pet ownership for older adults, including some tips.
The Benefits of Pet Ownership for Elderly People
- Pets can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and decrease sadness and loneliness.
- Interaction and touch can be especially beneficial…so it’s good to celebrate National Hug Your Cat Day all year round!
- Psychologist Penny B. Donnenfeld shares that she’s “seen those with memory loss interact and access memories from long ago.” There are many positive psychological benefits: “Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”
- Pet ownership might just help you live longer! In 1980, researchers studied the effect of pets on heart disease patients. Aaron Katcher, MD, reported, “The presence of a pet was the strongest social predictor of survival … not just for lonely or depressed people, but everyone – independent of marital status and access to social support from human beings.” Additional studies have supported this finding.
- Pets offer true companionship. A study found that 95% of elderly owners spent time every day talking to their pets, 82% said owning a pet made them feel better when sad, 65% said caressing their pets made them feel better (National Hug Your Cat Day!) and over half confided fears and worries to their pets.
Tips for Elders and Caregivers about Pet Ownership
The benefits go both ways: pets can benefit from stable owners who care for them and spend a lot of time with them.
Cats can be an especially good pet choice because cats offer rewarding companionship but don’t require the upkeep and time it takes to properly care for a dog. For elders who cannot get out to walk a dog regularly, most can care for a cat’s needs quite well. And, don’t forget, our EasyLiving caregivers can also help with pet care! A little support can help an elderly pet owner maintain their pet so they can keep their furry companion.
Cat scratches can be bad news for elders, especially those with fragile skin or compromised immune systems. Remind your loved one that if he/she gets scratched, it may be good to go in for a quick medical checkup to ensure a serious infection does not result.
Even for those who live in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, pets (or contact with pets on a regular basis) are an option. When we work with pet owners needing to move to a facility, we work to find a location where they can take their pets (and make arrangements for pet care assistance, if needed). For other clients, the chance to get to know a facility pet or participate in “animal therapy” can bring added joy to the transition to a new home. When I worked in a nursing home, the animal visitation activity was by far the most popular and engaging activity.
Our team can help with: pet care/upkeep, evaluating pros and cons of getting a new pet (and/or what kind of pet), assessing if more resources are needed to help properly care for the pet, planning for pets after a transition and what to do when the pet owner dies. Contact us at 727-447-5845.