The Best Pets for Seniors

portrait of senior woman and golden retriever dog

Hillary Fox / Stocksy United

Different pets have different qualities and require varying degrees of commitment, energy, and resources. Some pets are ideal for active individuals or people that appreciate a challenge and who want to spend a lot of time and effort in caring for a pet. Other pets are better for people who may not have as much energy to expel, smaller living environments, and financial constraints. 

Senior citizens are often looking for a pet that allows them to maintain their current standard of living on a fixed income, does not need a lot of space, and does not require excessive amounts of cleaning or exercise. Thankfully there are all kinds of pets available to all kinds of people, including seniors.

  • 01 of 05

    Dogs for Seniors

    senior man sitting on bench with dog

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    Many senior citizens like the idea of having a dog but know they physically can't handle an active, large pet. This is why small dogs, such as a cavalier King Charles spaniel, shih tzu, or maltese make great companions for seniors.

    Cavaliers are quiet, gentle-natured, and do not require much in the way of grooming when compared to some other dog breeds. They are also a great size, typically weighing around 15 pounds full grown.

    Shih tzu's are adorable, lovable little dogs for seniors as well. They do require regular grooming but are an excellent size for seniors to safely handle and take walks with.

    The maltese is a breed that stays very small but is still hardy. They are quite the lap dog but do need regular grooming.

    All of these breeds can do well in smaller homes and do not require big backyards to get ample amounts of exercise. They are also good sizes to be picked up and safely walked by most seniors.

  • 02 of 05

    Cats for Seniors

    cat snuggling with senior woman on lap

    Laura Stolfi / Stocksy United

    Cats make wonderful companions for senior citizens who don't necessarily have the strength or energy to take a dog on a walk but still want a companion. Short haired cats make great pet options for many seniors since they are typically very independent, clean themselves, and are more quiet than a dog. Long haired cats will require a bit more work since they may need to be brushed or groomed, but any cat is still a good option for a senior.

    Cats have unique personalities, make some noises for the person who doesn't want complete silence at home, and don't require a yard or a walk to use the bathroom.

  • 03 of 05

    Fish for Seniors

    Goldfish being fed by a male child and male senior

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    While a large aquarium may not be the best idea for a senior citizen to maintain (unless they were to hire an aquarium maintenance company), a small bowl or aquarium is easy for most people to manage. Betta fish are solitary, small space fish that are also very colorful and fun to look at it. These and other small freshwater fish can make good pet options for seniors but the tank size should not exceed 10 gallons for ease of water changes and cleaning.

    Some special lighting, filters, and regular feeding will be required but once everything is set up, the care of a fish is minimal, especially with the use of automated feeders.

  • 04 of 05

    Leopard Geckos for Seniors

    Leopard gecko on a branch

     Getty Images/Pablo Reinsch

    Not typically thought of as a pet for seniors, some reptiles, such as leopard geckos, actually make great pets for people looking for a low maintenance, quiet alternative to fish. Leopard geckos fit the senior bill because of their small size, lack of noise, and ease of care and maintenance. Once the enclosure is set up with the proper lighting and accessories, leopard geckos do not need to be fed daily and live a lot longer than fish, so you don't have to keep replacing a pet.

    Some other gentle reptiles, such as bearded dragons, require a lot more space and freshly prepared food on a daily basis. Leopard geckos do well in a 20 gallon tank and eat store bought food like mealworms, waxworms, and crickets. They can also be gently handled and admired for their varieties of different colors and morphs.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Insects and Spiders for Seniors

    Tarantula in a hand

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    If spiders, bugs, or insects don't creep you out, consider one of these invertebrate pets for a senior citizen. Insects are quiet, need little space, and are easy to care for. Invertebrates typically eat other insects and make good alternatives to having pet fish without having to change out water.