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Should Seniors Have a Pet in Their Assisted Living Apartment?

All of the Bethesda Senior Living Communities allow residents to have pets, though space does limit some communities to small and medium-sized pets. We recognize the positive impact a furry friend can have on individuals of any age, and we encourage residents to bring their pets when they move into the community or adopt a pet if they want the companionship.

October was Adopt a Shelter Dog month, so we've provided some tips on deciding whether a pet is right for you and how to incorporate a canine or feline companion into your assisted living lifestyle.

Benefits of a Pet

Pets offer a range of benefits for those who enjoy their company.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults age 65 and up get at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week to maintain good health. One way to easily achieve that goal is to go for a few brisk walks a day with a canine companion.

Research indicates that pets may provide even more benefits for health and wellness. Pets can reduce anxiety, which helps lower your body's response to pain stimuli, making them a good companion for individuals suffering from chronic disorders such as arthritis. The CDC also notes that people with pets often have lower cholesterol, and having a pet may help someone socialize and avoid feelings of isolation.

Can You Care for a Pet in Your Assisted Living Apartment?

It's important to note that the benefits of owning a pet aren't likely to be consistent if you can't take care of the pet in question or if you're simply not an animal person. If owning a pet is going to bring you more anxiety, it may not be the right choice for you, and that's okay.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you're considering a pet companion in your assisted living apartment.

  • Can you afford to care for and feed the pet?
  • Will you be able to attend to any pet needs, such as taking a dog for a walk or cleaning a cat's litter box?
  • Do you have a plan for handling any pet needs you can't attend to yourself, such as paying a groomer to bathe your dog periodically?

If you're interested in pet ownership but unsure if you are able to provide proper care for a furry companion, talk to the assisted living staff for outside opinions on what type of pet might work for you and the space in your apartment.

Where to Find a Pet Companion

You can purchase a pet from a local pet store or adopt one from a local shelter. Adopting a pet from a reputable shelter usually allows you to talk with the shelter staff about the condition and temperament of the pet, so you're more likely to be paired with a dog, cat or other animal that works well for your space and personality.

Another option is to work with friends or family in the area to adopt a pet that someone else can no longer keep because they are moving or experiencing financial or health struggles.

Remember that adopting a pet is a serious decision, so don't be afraid to take your time while considering this step. October may be Adopt a Shelter Dog month, but pet companions are available all year.