Retirement can be a life-affirming experience, but it often comes with losing some of the structure, social connections and sense of purpose associated with everyday work and family obligations.
Some retirees opt to get a pet for the companionship and joy these furry family members offer. There are several benefits of having a pet, but the heavy responsibility that comes with caring for an animal means it's not the right choice for every retiree.
If you're considering integrating a furry companion into your retirement lifestyle, here's what you need to know.
3 Benefits of Having a Pet in Retirement
Having a pet in retirement comes with several health and social benefits.
- First, a pet may boost your heart health, according to the American Heart Association. Pets often encourage their owners to stay active through activities such as walking a dog around the neighborhood or throwing a ball around your home with a feline friend. Even going to the local pet store to buy food and toys can give you opportunities to avoid being sedentary. Some studies have also linked pet ownership to increased relaxation and lower stress levels and indicated that seniors are more likely to feel joy, smile and engage with others when pets are around.
- Pets are also a great source of companionship, especially if you don't have family or close friends nearby. Many pets shower their owners with unconditional love and affection. They also offer a sense of purpose, because you are taking care of something other than yourself every day.
- Pets may even help expand your social circle. Social media is filled with groups for animal lovers, providing places for pet owners to connect with one another locally or online. They also create opportunities for chance meetings outside with fellow pet owners that give you the opportunity to meet other people who might share the same interests. The right pet can help you lead an active lifestyle in retirement.
Should You Get a Pet in Retirement?
For all the benefits of having a pet and the joy these companions provide, it's worth thinking carefully about whether a pet is the right choice for you in retirement.
Some pets are lower maintenance than others. For example, a dog will require daily walks, and the costs of their food and care may be higher than those of a rabbit, bird, hamster or even a cat. You also have to be prepared to allocate some of your retirement budget to veterinary costs and other additional expenses including medications, training classes, grooming, dog walkers and pet sitters.
When you travel, you'll need to make arrangements for your pet. Your planning might involve researching which hotels are pet friendly and navigating air travel guidelines — many airlines have size, age and destination restrictions for pets. If your pet can't fly with you, you may have to consider hiring a pet sitter, leaving your pet with a trusted friend or family member, or boarding them in a kennel during your vacation.
Consider too whether you have enough living space for a pet to reside comfortably in your home and if you're physically able to care for a pet, especially if you have health conditions that may make lifting or running after a pet more difficult.
Pets bring so much joy to their owners, especially in retirement. However, deciding to get or not get a pet is really about the kind of retirement lifestyle you want — and if you're willing to dedicate the time, effort and resources it takes to add a pet to your family. However, the best thing about retirement is that you can design it your way. Whether you want a pet companion or decide to enjoy a pet-free lifestyle, the choice is ultimately yours.