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Pets For Seniors: Choosing a Companion

By guest blogger Jessica Brody

Are you a senior interested in getting a pet? There are lots of benefits to doing so, from companionship in times of need to mental and physical health benefits. These four points will help you prepare your home, and your lifestyle, for a new addition by making the right choices about type, size, breed, and age.

Pet Type

To start, you need to think carefully about the type of animal you want to bring into your home. Choosing the right pet will guarantee a comfortable and pleasant experience for both parties.

First and foremost, think about the environment you will be able to provide for your pet. Do you live in a house or an apartment? An apartment may call for a smaller animal, such as a bird, a cat, or a hamster. A house may provide enough room for a dog.

Next, ask yourself how much energy you can devote to your pet on a day-to-day basis. If you need a significant amount of time for self-care, or require ongoing assistance, a low maintenance pet may be the best option. If you find that you are generally comfortable caring for your own health and home, a cat or dog are possible pets.

Finally, think long and hard about how long you will able to be the primary caregiver for a pet. Does the idea of ten or fifteen years seem daunting? A young cat or dog may not be the best solution. However, if your health is strong and you have experience handling pets, an animal with a long lifespan may be worth it.

Having trouble making a decision? This article from Best Friends can help you choose the right pet for your home.

Pet Size

The next step is thinking about the size of your pet. This is especially important for dogs, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Do you want a small, medium, or large animal?

A small animal could be a bird, a guinea pig, a turtle, a fish, or a rabbit. These animals all live in cages and are generally easy to monitor. A medium animal could be a small dog or a cat, both of which require far more responsibility. A large animal is usually a dog, such as a Labrador Retriever or a Husky.

Consider these options and ask yourself which size works best for your home and your lifestyle.

Pet Breed

Rarely does breed make a significant difference when it comes to small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, turtles, or fish. However, if you plan on getting a bird, a cat, or a dog, the specific breed you choose can change your experience completely.

The best thing you can do is thoroughly research your options. There are dozens of breeds to choose from, so this could take several weeks to decide.

Pet Age

Once you’ve decided on a pet type, size, and breed, you need to think about age. This depends mostly on how long you believe you’ll be able to care for your pet - in addition to the amount of time you have to put into training.

As a senior, this is likely not the best time to invest in a puppy or a kitten. Instead, you might want to consider visiting a shelter and saving the life of a growing dog or cat. Rescue animals can range from one to ten years in age and often make the best companions.

For smaller animals such as rodents or fish, you should feel comfortable starting young. You can, however, rescue guinea pigs from shelters across the country.

Think carefully about these four factors before choosing your new companion, and you’ll build the foundation for a healthy owner-pet relationship that will last for years to come.

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Making a Stress-Free Move with a Dog

by contributor Jessica Brody

Moving is a stressful time for anybody, and dog owners have the added stress of worrying about how their dog will cope with the move and adjust to the new home. They especially worry that their dog may wander off and get lost in a new environment. However, with careful and thoughtful planning, you can successfully move with your dog without causing too much trauma.

Safety First

Right before a move, your life can be a little out of whack. Everything is in disarray, and your routine is off. While things are being packed, located, and thrown away, the house is in constant disruption. It’s stressful, and that goes for dogs too. Their routine is off and the disruption unsettles them.

“All your dog has known and become familiar with, in terms of household objects and smells, changes dramatically, and it is not surprising that some dogs become stressed,” says Blue Cross for Pets.

Also, dogs pick up on our emotions. If you’re feeling anxious, your dog may be jumpy and extra sensitive. If you’re feeling scattered and chaotic, your dog may feel insecure. As a natural reaction, your dog may become focused on establishing his territory in the new home by chewing or urinating, or he may hide under a bed or in his crate. “Remember that difficult behaviors are a result of their discomfort with the change and a sense of not feeling in control,” says AARP.

While you’re packing boxes from the previous home, place your dog in a room with a sign alerting others not to open the door. This keeps your dog from escaping the home. Select one person to be solely responsible for your dog on the day of the move in case you can’t be. If possible, keep your dog on a leash or in a crate.

If your dog isn’t already microchipped, consider having this done prior to the move. It’s not unusual for dogs to get loose when moving into a new home, and having your dog chipped will make it easier to locate them and avoid the heartbreak associated with a missing pet.

Once you’re at the new home, transfer your dog to a room, again with a sign. Also, provide some familiar items, such his toys, bowl, and bed. You may consider placing your dog in a boarding kennel during the move so that he’s safe, or a friend or family member may also be able to watch your dog. However, if you really want to be the one to comfort your dog, consider hiring a professional moving service to take care of packing, moving, and unpacking for you (just don’t forget to compare prices and look for a good deal).

At the end of moving day, ensure all the doors are closed and the fence is secure, and then allow your dog to explore his new environment. To prevent him from becoming overwhelmed, accompany your dog as he explores so he knows where you are.

Settling In

In a new home, your dog’s scent will obviously not be present, and there will be various unknown smells, which could make your dog feel insecure. Your dog can feel more at ease if you spread your dog’s scent for him. To do this, take a soft cloth and rub it gently around your dog’s face to pick up his scent. Then go around the room at your dog’s height and dab the cloth on items in the room to help him bond to the territory. Choose rooms where your dog will initially be kept or have access to first, and repeat this daily to build up the scent within the house. There are also manufactured scents available which work in the same way.

Use food to help your dog settle in by offering small frequent meals. This will give you and your dog more contact and help to reassure your dog. Your dog will quickly pick up on when and where his feeding will take place, and he will anticipate the meal rather than worry about it, allowing him to feel more at ease.

Dogs need time to adjust to their new home just as humans do. You can help make this transition easier by planning ahead for the big move. The most important thing is for you to be patient and provide your dog with extra love and attention.

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Entertaining a Cat.

Cat sitting in a cardboard box

Henry is a cow cat, a black and white, non-tuxedo cat, a rescue, maybe about nine years old. Cow cats are notoriously close to their humans, I’m told (“needy” is a word I hear a lot), and Henry is ultra affectionate. He’s also playful and (to me) surprisingly smart.

I came home from a meeting today to find that he had lined up all of his bigger toys: three scratching blocks of different varieties, Lambie (big stuffed animal), Chickie (ditto), Mousie (you get the drift), tennis ball, two organic wool clothes dryer balls that he filched from a laundry basket one day when I wasn’t looking, two sparkly balls, three balls with little noisemakers inside (a gift from a dear but clueless friend), a medium Amazon box, part of a feather, and his aluminum foil ball. At the end was his newest store-bought toy: a circle toy that has a ball in it that he can touch and reach and knock around the circle but never get the ball out.

As I massaged my fingers from their clenched position (20 miles on icy highway at Interstate speeds, driving an SUV in a high wind blowing across stubble fields), he began to play. He’d made himself an obstacle course to leap around, climb over, stalk from behind, run around, and generally tease himself with before getting to the highly-desired circle toy that was his reward for his basic-training-style efforts.

Initially I felt guilty for not recognizing that he needs more mental stimulus, then proud of his brainpower, and then curious. How do we keep an indoor cat active and engaged, especially in a small apartment when bird feeders are forbidden and funds are limited?

Some experts suggest getting a second or even third and fourth cat. After the initial settling of the pecking order, they often will play, hunt, and sleep together.

Interactive time with the human is also recommended. Most cats love to “help” change the sheets on the bed. Why not take an extra five minutes and give them a bedmouse to stalk and pounce on? Or let them get under the sheet and then pat that furry little bottom or tummy?

If your cat responds to catnip and you don’t object to its use, try keeping the nip in a lidded container along with some of the small toys. The toys will pick up the scent of the nip and become highly valued play objects for the remainder of their probably-limited life.

Some cats enjoy watching cat videos on TV or computer, or will watch a screen saver endlessly. Some enjoy listening to bird song on YouTube, or the sound of a cat purring. When you pause at the keyboard, find a website for your cat, who is probably sitting between you and the monitor anyway.

If you have hardwood or tile floors, give the cat a couple of chopsticks to bat around, or an empty plastic water bottle, a rolled up sock (with a little catnip on the inside?).

Or, for the ultimate experience: tissue paper, and for exceptionally good kitties, tissue paper in a box. Oh joy! Tissue paper in a box with a treat or favorite toy hidden in the folds. Eureka!

What have you come up with to amuse your furry little Einstein?

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