Why you should get a pet when you retire 38



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Pet or not?

You have just retired from work. At last you have some free time to holiday, to sleep in, to do whatever you want. No children to wake you up, no boss with demanding deadlines, no alarm clock. Bliss!

Then a little voice inside your head suggests that it might be a good time to get a pet. Or perhaps, rather than from within, the voice and suggestion belong to your spouse or partner.

“Now you have more time of your hands, a pet would be a good idea!”


Is it a good time to have a pet?

Only you can and should decide when the time is right for a pet. Your children or neighbours may see you at home and think you have too much time on your hands and think that a pet would be a good idea. They do not have to live with, walk, feed and pay the vet bills. You do.

Your retirement can bring the loss of a role in life, however, and a pet can, in many cases, adequately fill that vacancy. Walking the dog every day, or playing with a kitten can keep you busy and stop you feeling lonely.

If in doubt, give yourself a little more time to make a decision. Never rush into pet ownership. Research what type of pet you would like, what age and where you will acquire that pet.


How will a pet benefit my life?

Having a pet means that you will stay active. Dogs need to be walked. Cats need cuddles and every pet needs to be fed on a regular basis. This means that you keep moving.

Owning a pet means that you have something to keep you amused and, often, someone to talk to. Living alone or perhaps having a partner who is still working, means you may spend periods of time alone. The advantage of a pet is that they will listen to every word you say. You can even sing to them and they will listen adoringly!

Pets are a catalyst for conversation and neighbours will often talk to one another about their pets. Similarly in local parks, people talk about their dogs.

In addition to these daily benefits, pets also help you stay healthy. Reduced risk of cardio-vascular disease, reduced stress, improved psychological health and less visits to the doctor are just some of the physiological benefits of pet ownership.


But pets are hard work!

Pets are hard work at times. They need care and this can be expensive, which is why the decision to own a pet cannot be taken lightly.

You may be considering downsizing and moving to an apartment can make pet ownership more tricky, although many apartment blocks are now acknowledging that pets are not the villains they once considered them to be. Pets even increase the value of the home!

You may be considering a nomadic lifestyle, touring the country and enjoying your retirement years. A pet may offer companionship on your travels. They may also be a costly holiday expense to leave at home so, again, be prepared.


What about your future?

People often worry about what will happen to their pet should they die before their animals. It is possible to request arrangements for your pet in your will. Shelters can look after your pet until the end of its natural life, if you leave a donation for their care. Often family is more than happy to look after your pet. Knowing this often makes it easier for seniors to accept a companion animal into their lives.


I’d like a pet, what next?

Do your research. Choose your pet carefully and consider their needs and welfare in your care. Here are some tips to help you choose and live a long, fulfilled life together with your furry, feathered or finned family member:

  • Choose a species of pet that you are familiar with for ease of care. If you select one that you have never owned but always wanted, make sure you do your homework and that it is the best pet for you.
  • Choose the best breed for your lifestyle. Don’t acquire a working dog breed (eg. Border Collie, Kelpie), for instance, unless you are an experienced dog trainer and plan to work with that dog every day. Instead try a quieter toy breed or a less active cat.
  • Senior pets in shelters are always looking for homes. This may be the perfect time to give these pets their chance at a home life.
  • Use your time to be active with your pet. Dog training or gardening with your cat can be extremely enjoyable pursuits in retirement.
  • If you need help with your pet, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your pet’s needs matter and so do yours.


Did you decide to acquire a pet when you retired? Or decide against it? Share your pet ownership experience at this stage of life.

Dr Jo Righetti

Passionate animal behaviourist and Purina Petcare ambassador, Dr Jo has worked with pets for more than a decade and has been a media favourite, with appearances on Totally Wild, Creature Features, Body & Soul Magazine and The Project. With a PhD in Animal Behaviour, a Degree in Zoology and a Diploma in Counselling under her belt, Dr Jo provides support to individual pet owners, governments and commercial companies on how to best nurture relationships between animal and human.

  1. I have always had a dog, got my new rescue puppy last year. I have a cat also and a galah in a huge cage out the back. Not pets as such, but I also share 2 Murray Grey cows and their calves.

  2. My dad, aged 96, in a low care village in Byron Bay, where dogs are encouraged, has recently inherited a friends Maltese terrier – 12 years old, arthritis, partly deaf and partly blind [the dog, that is, not Dad] – and they love each other dearly and dad takes her short, slow walkies up to 4 times a day. And his mood has improved enormously, not that it was bad before, it’s just better now. Get a suitable pet – YES

  3. If you are feeling that you are slowing down go to a shelter or contact a rescue group older animals often have great difficulty finding homes. We adopted a 7 year old Labrador to accompany my husband on walks as we found ourselves dog free after years of dog ownership. Our cat must be at least 13 and was adopted last year. Remember if you take on a puppy or kitten they can live into their late teens and need re homing if you can no longer look after them.

  4. Always had dogs, it’s very sad when they go to dogs heaven, but I always get another, can’t imagine life without one, at present I have a chocolate Labrador, very faithful, he is 11 yrs old.

  5. I worry about my dog if I get sick butt I rescued him from a young man who treated him badly now 11 yrs on he getting sick I don’t know what I’d do without him he saved me when I had Depression as being a widow for eighteen years xx

  6. We have always had animals and adore them have none at the moment we are travelling to much since we’ve retired. At the mo we are baby sitting our grand Labs. I believe they give a lot of love to usl.

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