2/15/2022 | By John Levan

Older adults looking for animal companionship can consider these four perfect pets for seniors: easy to care for while still providing company, smiles, and other benefits.

Pet ownership can be good for older adults, and that’s not just “common knowledge.” Research confirms it with evidence that animal friends can contribute to human health, well-being, and even longevity. Pets offer companionship, prevent loneliness, and improve their owners’ lives in countless ways.

However, many seniors facing age-related conditions find it challenging to care for traditional pets like dogs or cats. Or perhaps they’re simply ready to cast off youthful inhibitions and welcome a new critter into their lives. Fortunately, a few outside-the-box crazy perfect pets for seniors provide the benefits of sharing time with furry friends.

Here are four interesting (perhaps a bit crazy) perfect pets for seniors to welcome into their homes.

1. Sugar gliders

These adorable little marsupials make excellent pets for owners who understand their needs. They have an average lifespan of 5 to 7 years and weigh about one-quarter pounds.

Because they are social animals, they are better off in pairs. Adopt two baby sugar gliders from the beginning and they keep each other company. Males and females may be together, but the male must be neutered at around six months to prevent little gliders (called joeys). They form bonds with their human owners, too, starting from early imprinting.

Sugar gliders are playful and curious, making them good companions who enjoy time with their mates and owners. They have a natural affinity for pouches and often curl up in a shirt pocket or the fabric pouches available from pet stores, so you can even pack them with you when you leave home!

These big-eyed little animals are also nocturnal, so you should have a separate room so they can be noisy and active while you sleep.

2. Birds

Many veterinarians recommend birds for seniors. They provide the therapeutic benefits of companionship and stress reduction, as do dogs and cats, but without as much care.

  • Cockatiels are easy going, friendly, smart, and easy to handle. They can respond to their owners, including mimicking sounds, whistling, and making other fun noises. They love to be petted and to spend time outside of their cage.
  • Parakeets (Budgies) are a popular choice because they are active, intelligent, friendly, and affectionate to humans. They enjoy being petted, stroked, and held and can be taught to speak with their tiny voices.
  • Canaries are known for their soft singing, mostly by the males, as well as their friendliness and sociability. Although they are active birds, they are content to remain in their cages in singles or pairs and require no handling.

3. Rabbits

Rabbits, with their soft fur and twitching noses, can foster a smile in people of all ages. Bunnies can be trained to use a litter box, so they only need food, water, and occasional cleaning of the litter box. Like fish, they’re quiet. They aren’t likely to get lost in the house, but they may find hiding places and settle in for a nap.

Rabbits bond with humans just like traditional pets do, following their owners around the house and responding to commands. Smaller rabbits are light and make perfect lap-pets since their weight won’t put undue pressure on a senior’s legs.

One downside of rabbits is their relatively short lifespan of one to two years. If it’s a long-term companion you are hoping for, you might want to consider another pet.

Related: Are pets allowed in retirement homes?

4. Fish

Fish make great pets since they can’t get lost, and they don’t disturb your sleep by barking or jumping on the bed before you’re ready to get up. They’re also soothing to watch, especially in a beautifully appointed aquarium.

Researchers at Purdue University determined that Alzheimer’s patients can benefit from watching fish in an aquarium, becoming more alert and relaxed and even having a better appetite. So if you share you home with a senior with dementia, consider getting fish.

The Flame Angelfish, Clownfish, Regal Tang, and French Angelfish are attractive species that will be at home in almost any size tank. Like any animal, they need regular care, but special equipment such as lighting, filters, and an automated feeder can ease the work.

Whatever pet you bring in to share your home, be sure you have the resources to properly care for the animal. And be sure you buy from a reliable source, one that is responsible in its treatment of its animals. Not only will you avoid supporting inhumane organizations, you will be assured of getting a physically and emotionally healthy new friend!

John Levan

Freelance writer John Levan focuses on insurance, finance, and manufacturing as well as senior living topics. Based in Pennsylvania, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Alvernia University and Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills.