Many seniors enjoy the company of a cat, dog, or other pet in their golden years. Having a pet to take care of can ease loneliness, lower the risk of depression, and give a special purpose and routine to each day, especially for those who would otherwise live alone. Many people become extremely attached to their pets and view them as members of the family. This is why a separation between senior and pet, for medical issues or other reasons, can be so very difficult. Below you will find tips for the different available options for those facing senior pet separation.
Senior Pet Separation: What are your Options
#1 Senior pet separation: Bringing in a helper.
If your loved one is facing a pet separation, either because they can no longer care for a beloved pet, or because they are moving into a care facility, they will need plenty of support. But first, be sure you have looked at all of the options. If caring for the pet has become an issue, perhaps just bringing in extra help would be enough to allow the senior to keep their beloved pet. Maybe a dog walker could be hired to come in daily, or a grandchild could volunteer to stop by each morning to feed the cat and take care of litterbox duty.
If your loved one is moving to an assisted care facility, don’t assume they don’t allow pets; many of them now do, and some can even assist with a pet’s daily care needs. If the situation is temporary; perhaps your loved one is hospitalized or in rehabilitation – check with a local shelter or humane society to see if they offer temporary fostering services. You could also check in with the local senior center or veterinarian who may be able to connect you with programs around the country that offer assistance to seniors and their pets. There may be volunteers in your area that are able to do anything from walking that energetic dog to taking the cat to vet appointments.
#2 Senior pet separation: Having a family member take the pet in
If all else fails and a separation is inevitable, your loved one will be very concerned about where the pet will be going. The ideal situation is to have a family member or close friend care for the pet. It is a great comfort to people to know that their pet is with someone they know and trust, and this also allows for the possibility of visits. If you are not able to take the pet in yourself, it is well worth the trouble to contact those your loved one is friendly with to see if they can help. Ask family, friends, neighbors, and members of organizations your loved one belonged to. You may be surprised to find that even someone you didn’t think would be up for a pet would enjoy this opportunity to help.
#3 Senior pet separation: Getting a rescue shelter involved.
If no one is available to take the pet in, take heart. There are many shelters and rescue organizations dedicated to finding good homes for pets. Involving the pet owner in the planning process may help them feel better about the situation. Finding a decent shelter is always a better option than placing an ad in the paper or on the Internet. Shelters carefully screen applicants and pets to help ensure a good match, making it more likely that the pet’s new living situation will be successful. If you go this route, you will likely be able to get an update when the pet has been adopted, which can help to reassure your loved one.
Finally, remember that if your loved one has to separate from their pet they will need plenty of support. In the weeks following the separation, try to make sure they have plenty of visits and contact with friends and family to help ease any anxiety and sense of loss they may feel.