Critter Corner: Pets to Help Solve Loneliness

Dear Ribbit,

My father lives alone, more than 1,000 miles away. He can be stubborn sometimes and although we offered to move him into our home, he wants to stay put. We are thinking of getting him a pet to keep him company. Do you think this is a wise idea? Is there any research showing that pets help with loneliness? The other problem is what type of pet, because we certainly don’t want to cause him an extra burden of having to take care of a needy pet.


Kat Dogorfrogge

Dear Kat,

Many senior citizens who live alone may not have much contact with the outside world. Loneliness can lead to stress, anxiety, and medical complications. A new study proves that pets can cheer up lonely seniors and enhance quality of life.

In a study conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center, psychiatrists examined 830 primary care patients over the age of 60 to determine if social-connectedness, especially pet ownership, could promote health and well-being.

Those participants most likely to report feelings of loneliness lived alone without a pet. Those living with pets were 36% less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. The University of Rochester researchers concluded that pet ownership could help spread feelings of social connectedness and significantly decrease feelings of isolation in older patients. They further postulated that sharing a home with a pet could improve an older person’s overall well-being.

I strongly urge everyone, especially those living alone, to consider sharing their home with a pet. The more people interact with pets, the more likely they are to interact with other humans and avoid depression. Pets give people a reason to get up in the morning and dog owners, in particular, to go for a walk several times a day. If walking a dog is too burdensome, a dog may still be a great companion if the owner has a fenced-in yard, or if the owner can afford to hire a pet walker. Professional pet walkers and pet walking services exist in most communities. Cats, of course, are more independent and don’t need walking. But they do need to have their litter boxes cleaned regularly, which may not be that often if you have an indoor-outdoor cat. Then again, there are pet services that will come and clean litter boxes for you, and even take care of feeding your pets and administering any medications that may be needed, if you are not physically able to (or if you are away on vacation or in the hospital or otherwise unavailable), so pet owners can still enjoy the companionship of a loving pet without necessarily having any of the burdens typically associated with pet ownership.

If your father cannot have a cat or dog where he lives, maybe you can buy him a fish aquarium or a frog aquarium! Fish and frogs can make great pets for some people. Even though we’re not cuddly, we can still offer beauty and stress relief to our owners. And you don’t have to walk us or change our litter boxes. You just need a proper aquarium set up with a filter.

Hop this is helpful,


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.