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What Happens When Elders Can No Longer Care for Their Pets?


We have 11 cats of our own. There is no way we can adopt my parents' dog and cat. They have no friends who can take the animals. We don't know what our options are at this point.

Let's include cats. It seems cats, like women in general, are often treated like 2nd class citizens. Cats are miniatures of their big cousins in the wild. I have 2 indoor cats. They give so much love and joy. If you engage with your cats, they will respond. They come when I call them and the understand many words and commands. A purring cat has a calming effect that reduces stress.

Great article...are there any statistics on how many residents in assisted living have pets nationally? I am doing some research for my company. Thanks!

As the owner/operator of a pet waste removal company I do not just provide poop removal for my senior clients. I scoop cat boxes, deliver food and litter and even arrange for the local dog walking service/daycare to provide discounts. Giving up or euthanizing your pet are no longer the only options. Pet care services have come a long way.

One way families can insure an elder's continued connection with their pet is to step up to the plate and agree to adopt the elder's pets if they can no longer care for them. Have this conversation early, so that the elder is clear on whether you will do this - they often assume, and are surprised to find that you cannot or will not help their beloved pet when a crisis occurs. Be aware that most rescue groups are already stressed from a lack of foster homes for pets that need help, and may not be able to take your folks' pet in at the time of need. Veterinarians get many such requests and are often unable to help as well, although it's always worth a try, in case someone at the practice is fond of the pet, or knows someone who is seeking a pet. Open admission shelters must take all pets, but will likely euthanize any animal not deemed quickly adoptable. Be honest with your elder about the possibility, as they have a right to make an informed choice to euthanize the pet in a loving situation, if necessary, versus having it dropped off to a stressful and frightening environment, only to have the same outcome in a less ideal place. Large shelters often suffer from lack of space or lack of resources to treat any physical or behavioral issues that the animal comes in with. Cats are especially in danger, as are any aged pets. If you think your parent needs a pet for company now, think twice about what happens to that animal then, when mom or dad can't cope any more. It's not fair to sentence an animal to death for being a loving companion, so do please plan ahead for their care!
Anne S.
Program Manager
SeniorCare Pawsitive Connections
Gloucester, MA

I was born into a family that rescues animals and finds homes or rescues for them and am very active in this work to this day. I see this kind of thing all of the time and it makes me furious. Seniors need their pets for love and comfort and have made a commitment to their pets. I would suggest not moving into any place that will not allow your pets. I was caretaker for both of my parents and for my grandparents and for an inlaw. I always take in the pets too. In fact, we recently took in a relative's dog who could not care for her (relative has cancer).

Another thing to think about is the possibility of setting aside some money for the pet' care.
Some money can be set aside for the care of the pet informally or formally through a pet trust.
This isn't intended as legal advice but I'm a pet loving lawyer and caregiver.


Great article with some very good advice. Every situation is different and pets do play such a special part in a senior's life. As we celebrate Independence Day, don't forget the opportunity to take a close look at in-home care options for your loved ones to help with their daily activities and take care of their pet too!

Nothing is more importance than one's independence. Check out the home care options in your area. Check out our site at stlhomecare.com