Cats can help fill any home with love, companionship, and endless entertainment, and usually with less time and energy than a larger animal, like a dog, might require. For this reason, many senior citizens consider cats to welcome into their homes, but do felines actually make good pets for older folks? Like any relationship this will, of course, depend on the parties involved and their individual needs, personalities, and capabilities. When the fit is right, a cat can greatly improve the life of anyone at any age, including senior citizens, by offering companionship, unconditional love, and someone to share time and space with.
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Cat guardianship pros
Anyone who shares their home and life with a feline can attest to the countless benefits of having one around, and according to American Humane, they're correct to sing those praises. Having a cat in the home can improve a person's mood by providing affection, attention, and unconditional love and companionship. Many senior citizens who live alone may find a cat to help with feelings of loneliness, and their feline friends may even offer a sense of purpose and responsibility for someone who has spent nearly a lifetime caring for others and sharing time and space with them. Cats require regular care, and implementing a wellness routine on a daily basis can help anyone add structure and meaning to their days.
Cats and physical health
In addition to the emotional and mental health aspects of cat care, older people can meet some of their physical needs when caring for a cat companion through regular exercise. While cats don't require the same walks and runs as dogs do, they do need to be physically and mentally stimulated in order to be their healthiest selves, especially if they live indoors all of the time. Despite their need for physical exercise, the requirements of their caretakers is relatively low, and can usually be accomplished even with limited mobility, like moving a piece of yarn for your feline to chase, or providing catnip treats or other toys for your cat to enjoy at her leisure. A 2009 study published by the US National Library of Medicine even showed that living with pets such as cats can lower stress and blood pressure, lowering the risk of death due to cardiovascular diseases.
The cons of cats
While cats are certainly lower maintenance than their canine counterparts, they are still individual living creatures, each with their own specific set of habits, quirks, and needs. Cats, especially young cats, require constant stimulation, and even still may be compelled to destructive tendencies, like clawing carpeting and furniture, chasing and "attacking" moving objects (like feet,) or frequent meowing and running around, especially in the quiet hours of the night. If seniors in your life are looking to be pet parents, it may be a good idea to look into adopting an adult cat, who has likely grown out of some of their playful kitten energy and may enjoy simply spending days curled up on a warm couch.
Alternatively, some older cats, like any living thing, may be prone to health issues, like urinary tract infections, arthritis, and periodontitis, to name a few, which will require time, effort, and finances to treat properly. Cat care also requires regular cleaning of litter boxes, and refilling of food and water dishes, which often comes with bending and light lifting, and may not be advisable for people who struggle to do either of these things.
Felines can be a good addition to certain homes regardless of the age of the owner, and may be especially good choices for senior citizens who seek companionship that comes with a generally low level of maintenance. Like any companion animal, a good fit between pet owners and cats will yield the most successful and rewarding cohabitation scenarios, and taking things into account like age, temperament, and a cat's existing health issues may ease burdens on new owners. While cats are more low maintenance than dogs, they still require a high level of care, including food, shelter, and water, along with love, attention, and regular exercise, in order to be happy and healthy animals.