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My mother's parents are in their 80s and in an independent living apartment in a retirement community where they've lived for about 6 years. My grandmother had two small birds (parakeets, I think) for many years; one of them died last year, and the other died very recently. My grandmother is distraught over the death of the recent bird ("Everything and everyone around me is dying!") - this wasn't just a pet she'd purchased, this bird was one she had found being attacked by wild birds in the back yard of her old home and nursed back to health. She loves animals, and I think she would get a lot of fulfillment out of caring for a new pet...she's had significant hearing loss (and doesn't always remember her hearing aids), major anxiety, and is starting to show some signs of early dementia, so anything that could assist in keeping her mind "outside of herself" would be really helpful.

There are, of course, some problems. Due to the above-stated reasons, any pet of hers could not be very high-maintenance. The apartment she shares with my grandfather is fairly small, so the pet couldn't be big and/or require a big cage/enclosure/tank. She already has the cage/accessories and experience caring for birds, so that would be an obvious choice, but my grandfather has declared he's "done with all the damn birds" (though I think he could be talked around). She and my grandfather had several dogs - miniature poodles - for the whole time my mother was growing up and into my own childhood as well, so they understand how to care for dogs and definitely aren't allergic. (My mother doesn't believe they're allergic to cats, either, but isn't sure; she herself IS allergic to cats, so it's a possibility that one/both of her parents are, too.) I thought about something like a turtle or an iguana, since they're pretty low-maintenance other than the aquarium-cleaning, but since most of what my grandmother likes/responds to with animals are the happy sounds they make and the interactions she can have with them, I'm not sure a reptile or a fish would fit the bill, and honestly I think that without such interactions she might forget that the animal was there and it would die. I have no experience with rabbits, but I've heard that their hutches can REALLY smell if not cleaned very frequently.

So, does anyone have any ideas or suggestions? Is there an option I haven't thought of? She just needs something that, ideally, will interact with her, not run around too much, sleep a lot, and be fussed over a bit. I have experience with pets, so I feel like this list of demands is kind of ludicrous in reality (NO pet is maintenance-free), but I hated seeing her so miserable over the death of her bird and would really love to help make her happy. Maybe a new pet isn't the answer; I'm willing to accept that. But I just figured I'd turn to the internet to brainstorm a bit and find out what other people think!

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I have to agree with most of the posts about NOT getting a cat or dog. My mother has killed several cats with her pills dropped on the floor and the animals consuming them. Also if there are any signs of dementia, neglect or abuse is probable, not necessarily intentional. Tripping over the poor animal, lack of proper food and fresh water are a reality that must be considered. Get a Furbie!
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I have to agree with most of the post about NOT getting a cat or dog. My mother has killed several cats with her pills dropped on the floor and the animals consuming them. Also if there is any signs of dementia, neglect or abuse is probable. Tripping over the poor animal, lack of proper food and fresh water are a reality that must be considered. Get a Furby!
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WRWork, as for a cat they can live a long time. Even if you get a 14 year old cat, he/she could live to be into their early 20's, so you will need to take that into consideration.

And please note, cats can get dementia [so can dogs], so I don't know how well that would work later down the road when your grandparents are in their late 80's when the cat is crying out because he/she is *lost* in a room. Or when the cat cannot remember to use his/her litter box. I had both those issues with a cat who lived to be 21 years old, and she started with her feline dementia when she was 17.

Then there is the tripping issue. Unless the cat likes to sleep on the sofa or the bed, normally they will be sprawled out on the floor/carpet... whenever my parents come over to visit my home, I have to put the cats elsewhere because my parents wouldn't notice the cats sleeping on the rugs.... the cats blends in with the color of the flooring/carpeting. Just more to take into consideration.
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If the noise is annoying while grandpa is trying to watch TV just cover them up for a while. An old pet is not such a good idea, neither is a baby cute as they are. Someone must be prepared to take the pet when the grandparents pass. in a couple of weeks grandma may be even want the trouble of another pet.
FF I agree with you about the weight of kitty litter. I can barely get it into the car these days
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Maybe a local 'Visiting Pet Therapy' program would be good. I have worked with them in different communities where they bring their certified/trained dog (and in some instances cats) to visit nursing homes, home bound or retired people. They usually visit once a week. Your grandparents would benefit from the visits without the worry or care if they lived with them. It would be a win-win for the animal and your grandparents. Fostering an animal is another option - albeit, more work.
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Just saw the last 3 responses when the page refreshed - thank you all for your suggestions! I think birds would be great, and realistically probably better for their circumstances than even an elderly cat, it just depends on whether my grandfather can be talked down (he tends to get on a soapbox and make grand, sweeping declarations that he doesn't necessarily intend to stick with). Apparently he found the cheeping of the birds to be annoying; my grandmother probably didn't hear any but the loudest cheeps and presumably thought them charming. We'll see. Good point about her needing more time to grieve, though. I'll be seeing her/them in a few weeks, and I'll try to get a temperature reading.
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Thanks for the responses so far! I didn't know anything about the fake pets, that's very interesting. To clarify, only my grandmother is showing signs of early dementia; my grandfather, though he has some trouble getting around, is very much still "with it" mentally. Even with my grandmother, it's been difficult for doctors to diagnose what's going on with her....her hearing problems date back 20 years or so, and she only started using hearing aids about 2-3 years ago, so she's slowly been withdrawing from the world and losing track of what's going on for a long time. And coupled with that, she's had anxiety for likely her entire life, long before "anxiety" was considered a legitimate medical issue, so that hasn't helped with her increasing "internal" focus, either. But in the past few years the doctors HAVE decided that part of what's going on is, indeed, early dementia. I do understand that dementia is more than just forgetting things...I studied neuropsychology in school :) And my paternal grandfather had progressing dementia before he passed away in 2012. Fortunately, my grandmother is still early-stage; I honestly think that at this point it's more her hearing issues that contribute to some of her disorientation etc.

If we do decide to go the furry-pet route (and that's definitely not a decision I would make on my own, without consulting them), I would be inclined to go with an older (mature adult/elderly) pet as opposed to a puppy or a kitten, partly for the lower-maintenance reasons, and partly for the reason sunnygirl1 mentioned about what if they become no longer able to care for the pet. If they got an elderly pet NOW, and over the next few years my grandmother worsens (or there's an accident, etc.) and the pet becomes more and more of a burden, well....the burden of the pet wouldn't be around much longer, anyway. I feel like that makes me sound terrible, but it's a practical consideration. The downside to getting an elderly animal is what if things go great and my grandmother falls totally in love with the pet only to have it die in 3 years, then she'd go through the devastation of loss and "everything around me is dying" yet again.

IF we go with anything, I agree that an older short-haired cat is probably the best bet. But I appreciate the reassurance that my hesitance is well-founded...much as my grandmother would probably enjoy the benefits of a pet, she just might not be up to the responsibilities it would require. Thanks for talking this out with me!
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MRWork, I would stick with the birds for your grandparents if you think they really want one.... but first I would give your grandmother more time to grieve over the loss of her pet first. If grandmother really wants a new bird, then get 2 of them, it's only fair to the pet itself to have company of its own kind.

I would nix the idea of a dog or cat, not at your grandparents age. Even though cats are easy to care for, I have 3 of them that I spoil silly, as we get older that durn litter box becomes a major pain.... ever see the weight of a jug of cat litter now a days? I have to drag it into the house it's so heavy. Forget for the new lite litters, my cats won't use them. And litter boxes need tending twice a day by someone who can still lift heavy weight and doesn't mind bending down.
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Having had many pets over the years, I have found cats to be less trouble than dogs. However both a dog and cat can be a trip hazard to an elderly person. Also think of the future for the pet. So many cats and dogs end up at the Humane Society when an elderly person can no longer care for them.

I would give her some time before adopting anything. The dementia may be a problem in the future and that would not be fair for a little pet.
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If you ar your mother lives close enough to the grandparents and are able to supervise the new pets care I would go for another bird. Grandma is used to the care it needs and it clearly gave her great joy. i know it is sound advice to say no more pets but if they can be supervised and either you or your mother is prepared to provide a home for the bird when the time comes go ahead. Saty away from cats and dogs. they are lovely pets but too much to take on.
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It's nice that you want to make your grandmother happy, but I honestly would not recommend a pet, especially a fury one, under the circumstances you describe. I saw what happened with my loved one when she started into dementia and if your grandparents are in the early stages as you state, be prepared for there to be a big change in the way they are able to care for themselves and a pet.

My loved one loved her cat dearly, but the dementia caused her to grow irrational in the cat's care and safety. Her obsession with the cat caused the cat much stress. I'm not sure if all dementia patients undergo this change, but it's a risk I wouldn't take. And when they are no longer able to care for the animal, you'll have to re-home it. Can you take it in that case?

I would try to arrange to rent them a pet, have someone go over to visit on a regular basis with a pet or get them a fake pet. Purfect Petz has a nice assortment of lifelike fury pets who appear to breathe. They operate on battery and actually snore! I'd give it a shot, before taking on a live pet. That's a big responsibility.

I'm not sure if you have been around people with progressing dementia. It's more than just forgetting things. I would read about it here and other places, so you really understand what it entails, before I make the decision.
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I'd look into a short haired cat. I realize that no cat (except for those Egyptian ones) are hairless, but some of them shed like crazy. If you could find one that doesn't shed, then maybe the allergies wouldn't be a problem. They free feed, need fresh water daily, use the litter box instead of having to be walked, sit quietly in your lap or entertain you with their play. I am actually more of a dog person, myself, so I'm just throwing out ideas. I do understand the importance of a pet, especially to the elderly. They do make pretty real fake cats too. Battery operated, they purr and snuggle. My little great granddaughter was showing me hers one day. It was so soft and hard to believe it wasn't real.
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