Moosh - elderly person with cat

Emotional support animals (ESAs) can be beneficial for anyone to own because they can provide a constant source of love and companionship. But for senior citizens, they can be even more helpful. Having a pet can help an elderly person feel less lonely and can give their life purpose as they help care for their animal. There are tons of health benefits to ESA ownership, including decreased levels of pain, anxiety, and depression. Owning an ESA can even mean seniors live longer than non-pet owners.

So, what are the best emotional support animals for older folks? Different types of animals can work well for seniors depending on their living situation and health circumstances. Read on for a list of the best ESAs for senior citizens.

What is the best pet for a senior citizen?

Having a pet can help a senior feel comforted while still giving them some responsibility for taking care of another living thing. The level of responsibility involved should be dependent on the person’s particular circumstances. For example, while some seniors might have no problems taking care of a dog, others might need another animal that requires less exercise or grooming.

1. Dogs

Should a senior citizen get a dog? Dogs can be wonderful companions that can also inject a little bit of fun into a senior’s life. There are some really great breeds that work well for seniors, including Bichon Frises, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and French Bulldogs. These breeds are on the smaller side (typically not more than 20 pounds), so they’re easy for seniors to pick up. They’re also all easy to train, which can be helpful for a senior who wants to take their ESA with them to public places.

Dogs make for good ESAs because they’re super affectionate and loving. For most seniors, smaller breeds are better so that they can be easily managed; they also work well for seniors in assisted living-style housing. The potential downside to owning a dog, however, is that they can be a lot of work. Most breeds need some type of exercise or activity and some need pretty regular grooming. This upkeep can sometimes be too much to take care of for an elderly person. However, more active seniors should still consider owning a dog – they’re one of the best ESAs because they love to cuddle and dote on their owners.

2. Cats

If a senior wants a more independent animal, owning a cat is the way to go. They don’t require as much upkeep as dogs (no grooming necessary!) and can provide a much-needed calming presence in a senior’s life. There are a few breeds that are recommended for seniors, including Birmans, Ragdolls, and British Shorthairs. These cats are intelligent and playful but don’t have too much overwhelming energy, like you might get from a dog. Cats also work well for seniors who live in a smaller space, since they don’t tend to need a lot of exercise.

Moosh - black and white cat
Image by Manja Vitolic on Unsplash: Cats can be one of the best emotional support animals for senior citizens.

3. Rabbits

Owning a rabbit can be a great option for seniors who have limited space, as their cage won’t take up much room. Plus, because rabbits are so soft, they can be really comforting to hold. They make for good ESAs because they are sociable and like to be cuddled (perfect for seniors who experience symptoms of anxiety). Bunnies are also really playful, which can bring a sense of fun to a senior’s living space, and they don’t require much besides a clean cage and fresh food and water.

4. Rodents

Rodents like hamsters and guinea pigs can make fantastic pets for seniors because they don’t require a ton of space or attention. They’re pretty low-maintenance, so you don’t have to spend a ton of time on them. These types of animals do require some exercise, but that just means you’ll need to put some items (like a running wheel) in the cage for them. They can also be taken out of the cage and held, too.

Many people prefer these kinds of creatures for ESAs because they’re small enough to be taken everywhere. For seniors who don’t want an ESA with a long-time commitment, rodents like guinea pigs and hamsters can live anywhere from two to eight years (a much more manageable lifespan than a dog or cat).

5. Reptiles

Not everyone is open to owning a reptile (many people prefer something softer and cuddlier), but there are many benefits to having a reptile as a pet. Reptiles, which can include geckos, chameleons, snakes, turtles, and so on, are hypoallergenic and don’t take up much space. They can live in fairly small aquariums, making them perfect for assisted living environments or apartments. In addition, reptiles don’t need exercise, can be fed just once or twice a week, and rarely make noise – all things that go well with a senior citizen’s way of life. Although they might not be furry, many people find owning reptile ESAs to be beneficial for their mental health.

Moosh - chameleon
Image by Cecile Brasseur on Unsplash: Reptiles, such as lizards, can be a great option for seniors to own as pets.

6. Birds

Feathered friends can make top-notch ESAs for seniors because they like to be around people (and some can even talk back!). They don’t require a ton of maintenance or exercise, and they don’t tend to rack up vet bills like a dog or cat would. They can work in small spaces and are relatively inexpensive to feed (perfect for a senior on a budget). Some birds also like to be held and played with, so they can still be a comforting ESA option. Although they’re not easy to take out in public, they’re a social and intelligent animal that makes for a perfect companion for a senior citizen.

There are so many benefits to owning a pet, no matter what age you are. Seniors interested in getting an ESA should consider their current lifestyle so that they can get a pet that perfectly matches their needs. Then they’ll reap the benefits of pet ownership right away!

Featured image by Pietro Schellino on Unsplash