Perhaps you want to adopt a pet yourself or you are looking for the perfect per for your senior loved one, you might wonder, are cats good pets for seniors?
Cats are good pets for seniors because they’re low maintenance, reliable, predictable, good companions, self-sufficient, and do well staying indoors. Also, a cat offers health benefits on a daily basis: reducing feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can ease the pain of losing a loved one.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. In this article, I’ll share 15 reasons with in-depth information on why cats are good pets for seniors. And I share more information on the best cat breeds for seniors, things to consider before getting a cat as a senior, and more. So, continue reading.
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Reasons Why Cats Are Good Pets For Seniors
1) Cats Are Great Companions For Seniors
Cats are excellent companions for (lonely) senior citizens because most cats like to cuddle in laps or sleep close to you at the foot of the bed or couch. There is always someone there that likes to keep you company.
Coming home to an empty home can feel a bit boring and lonely. And that is why seniors can feel better with a loyal companion who is happy to see them and cuddle with them once they get home. Also, having someone to take care of is also a positive daily responsibility that will boost a senior’s self-esteem and uplift their mood.
A lot of people even like to talk to their cat, so it can feel like their best friend. And having always someone to talk to feels good, even when they don’t can’t talk with human words. Cats have their own personality and can communicate with their body language.
2) Cats Are Low Maintenance Compared To Other Pets
Compared to dogs or other pets, cats are low maintenance and easy to take care of, which makes them the perfect pet for seniors. They don’t have to go outside on long walks for a bathroom break, they can take themselves to the litter box. Also, cats need little to be entertained. And are happy to crawl in someone’s lap for a couple of hours in the day.
3) Cats Are The Best Pets For Seniors With Limited Mobility
As I mentioned above, cats are low-maintenance pets. They do not require the owner to be mobile for playtime, cuddle time, hygiene, and a bathroom break. They clean themselves, entertain themselves, go to the litterbox, and walk to you when they want some cuddling time. That is why seniors with limited or no mobility are able to take care of a cat.
4) Cats Are Reliable & Predictable
Just like seniors cats like routine, consistency, and predictability in their day to establish a stable and dependable environment for themselves. That is what seniors do too. Most humans of course, but seniors are more obsessive about how they like to do their things. You will see when there is a change in a routine, cats will get stressed and seniors don’t like that either. That is why seniors and cats are a great match.
5) Cats Are Self-Sufficient
Cats are self-sufficient. You can easily leave them alone for a couple of hours a day and not feel worried if your furniture is still okay. They’ll just sleep and snooze.
And even though you need to take care of them and rely on humans for food, they keep their hunter instinct (if you leave them outside during night/ day), because cats are naturally very independent hunters. My mom’s cat gets spoiled with gourmet cat food and milk but still hunts on birds, mice, etc during the night. And sleeps the day away during the day.
6) Cats Do Well Staying Indoors
Most cats are very content to stay indoors if they get enough (playful) stimulation and companionship.
From my own experience I can tell that if a cat is used to going outside, he/ she will be very unhappy spending indoors all the time. But a cat that is raised as an “indoor cat,” is very happy staying indoors. Also, cats are naturally territorial so they like to protect their own space instead of exploring new places.
There are some cat breeds that are better at staying indoors than others. According to veterinary specialists, these breeds below are the most ideal indoor house cats:
Ideal Indoor House Cats
- Scottish Fold
- Himalayan (Himmies)
- Devon Rex
- The Moggy
7) Cats Lowers The Risk Of Heart Attacks and Stroke
The calming presence of a cat lowers cholesterol levels, which decreases the risk of heart diseases. A study on Cat ownership and the Risk of Fatal Cardiovascular Diseases found the following:
“A decreased risk for death due to MI and all cardiovascular diseases (including stroke) was observed among persons with cats. The acquisition of cats as domestic pets may represent a novel strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases in high-risk individuals.”
8) Cats Can Boost Senior’s Immune System
Snuggling close with a feline friend can even improve someone’s immune system. Being exposed regularly to small amounts of pet allergens will prevent seniors from seasonal allergies or asthma.
Also, cuddling, playing, and taking care of a cat will make you feel happier which is the best natural booster for the immune system. And this will help fight off the common cold and other chest infections, according to research.
9) Cats Create Calmness And Reduce Feelings Of Anxiety
According to the same research mentioned above, is that the presence of pets has been associated with a reduction of stress and blood pressure, which in turn reduces feelings of anxiety and makes you feel calm. But besides the scientific research, everyone knows that you feel calmer by simply petting a cat in your lap.
10) Cats Decrease Feelings Of Loneliness
Many seniors suffer isolation from society. Having a companion who loves your company is a great remedy for loneliness.
11) Cats Give Unconditional Love
Cats are very loyal and social animals and can sense human emotions by recognizing facial gestures, like smiling and frowning. They can be very emphatic and show their care through their attention and body language.
Even a study found out that cats prefer human social interaction over food. The ultimate proof that cats love people. And no matter what you say to them, they’re nonjudgemental and keep showing their unconditional love.
12) Cats Give Seniors A Sense Of Purpose
Taking care of a pet is a big responsibility. And a good reason to get up in the morning. Especially for seniors who feel bored, a cat can give them a sense of purpose in life. Or a greater sense of purpose because now they are responsible for another creature.
13) Cats Make Seniors Feel Happy
Petting or cuddling a pet releases the happy hormone, oxytocin, in the body. It has a direct effect. Anyone feels instant better after snuggling with a cute animal such as a cat.
14) They Can Keep Seniors Warm
Seniors often feel cold, because of their age their metabolic rate decreases. And this means that seniors’ are unable to generate enough heat to maintain a “normal” temperature of 98.6 degrees.
A cat’s temperature is around 102f, which is much warmer than our optimum temperature. So when they curl up in a senior’s lap, they will instantly feel much warmer. Also, during cold winter days, cats are more likely to seek your warm lap to warm up too. A win-win situation. And a much cutter option than a blanket.
15) Cats Can Avoid Depression
Many seniors struggle with depressive feelings. And if you learned anything from all the information above, cats can help seniors feel much better about themselves and help avoid depression. But also research concluded that “Cat owners reported significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms than dog owners”.
Things Seniors Need To Consider Before Getting A Cat
Although cats can be perfect pets for seniors. There are some reasons why they’re not, depending on a senior’s situation. And even though in great health, seniors need to be aware of certain things before getting a cat.
Lifespan Of A Cat
The average life expectancy for an indoor cat is 12-18 years. So, before seniors get a kitten, they need to ask themselves if they expect to be able to take care of a cat for another 12 to 18 years. According to the CDC, the average life expectancy (of a human) in the United States is 78.7 years old. This means that a cat is likely to outlive many seniors.
So these are some valid questions to ask:
- Is the senior able to take care of the kitten/ cat for this long?
- What happens when they can’t take care of the cat anymore (e.g. when health decreases or when they pass away)?
- Is there a family member or friend who can step in to take care of the cat if needed?
But there is a chance that a senior can live out the cat. And mourning the loss of a cat can be extremely hard on seniors.
Also, an ill cat is hard to take care of. I know this from my own experience and I am not even old. And this can be stressful too. An aging senior can have a hard time taking care of an ill cat. But also an ill cat needs the proper care too.
Costs Of Owning A Cat
It is fun owning a cat, but cats do cost money. So is a senior able to pay for a cat and all the monthly expenses for basic needs and (emergency) medical care?
According to The Spruce Pets, this is the cost of responsible cat ownership:
- Quality food: $15 – $30 a month.
- Litter: $10 a month.
- Spay or neutering: $50-$400
- Core vaccinations: $80-160 for the complete first-year series.
- Annual veterinary examination: $100 – $200.
- Emergency vet care: Unknown
Difficult To Medicate
I know from experience trying to squirt medicine or vitamins into a cat’s mouth is very difficult. And not a one-man job. Therefore it can be difficult for a single senior to medicate a cat. Perhaps a neighbor, family member, or friend can help out during these times.
Chances Of Tripping And Injury
There is a chance that a senior can trip over a cat. Cats like to go under our feet. Even a friend of mine stepped on a kitten while going down the stairs with a laundry bag. This can happen. It can hurt the cat, but seniors can also lose their balance, fall, and get heavily injured (broken bones, or even worse). And recovering from a heavy injury is hard for older people.
Cognitive Functions As A Senior
You should ask yourself if seniors with a decline in cognitive functions, vision problems, or brain diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s should have the responsibility for taking care of a pet. Because then you can encounter problems such as forgetting to feed the cat, empty the litterbox, they can’t see the cat or seeing when the cat has medical issues, etc. Even though a cat is very self-sufficient they need an owner who can take care of them in a good and responsible way. Perhaps a friendly neighbor can keep an eye out.
Kitten Or Adult Cat?
A kitty needs more house training and much more attention than adult cats, but they adapt more quickly to their new environment. But a senior cat might come with health problems, which will require more visits to the vet. There is no good or bad option, it all depends on the senior’s situation.
Buying, Adopting, Fostering, Babysit A Cat
As I mentioned above, a kitten or adult cat both have pros and cons. And besides buying a cat, there are also other options.
- Seniors can adopt a cat from a local shelter. Or when they don’t want the full-time responsibility of taking care of a cat they can decide to volunteer at cat shelters.
- Seniors can foster a cat. This means seniors take care (through a rescue organization or shelter) for a limited amount of time at home until it is ready for adoption.
- Seniors can babysit someone else’s cat. All the benefits but not much of the responsibilities and costs. There are many busy families who love to find a senior who wants to take care of a cat. A great platform that matches cat owners with cat caregivers is Care.com.
The Best Cat Breeds For Seniors
Each cat has a different personality and temperament, but also each breed has its own qualities that may or may not be a good match for seniors. Some breeds are more curious and energetic than others. Some breeds like to cuddle all day, others less. And some breeds have ticker fur that needs more attention.
The best cat breeds for seniors are low energy level, low fur maintenance, and love cuddle time but not 24/7. So according to Petkeen, these cat breeds are great for seniors:
- Russian Blue
- Scottish Fold
- British Shorthair
- American Shorthair
- Exotic Shorthair
- American Wirehair
- Australian Mist
8 Must-Have Products For A New Cat
Ready to get a cat? Then these products are a must-have!
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2) Food & Water Bowl
4) Cat Toys
A teaser wand >> with feathers is one of the most popular cat toys and is always a hit.
3) Litterbox & Litter
5) Grooming Tools
6) Cat Carrier
7) Scratching Post
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