Critter Corner: What Happens When Seniors Can No Longer Care for Their Pets?


Dear Angel,

My miniature poodle, Moose, and my cat, Scooter, have been my constant companions since my husband died six years ago. They are the only warm blooded creatures that really depend on me. My dog and I usually take a two hour walk every day and I spend hours at night brushing and petting my cat. The last two weeks I have been sick, and it’s been a problem. Do you know of any resources for seniors who have pets and need assistance caring for them?

Karin Formai- Petz

Dear Karin,

As you know, pets bring purpose to seniors’ lives, especially at a time when fewer people depend on them. Not only can they distract you from your own health issues but, in the case of dogs, they can keep you healthier by encouraging exercise. They also provide the companionship that is vital to people of any age.

Often a pet is the only “family” someone has nearby, if at all. Below are some solutions to help you care for your beloved pets when you are not able to:

1. Reach out to friends, family and neighbors: Could a friend or family member help give the dog a bath occasionally or help change kitty litter? Perhaps a neighborhood kid could take the pooch to the park or out for a walk?
2. Find a groomer/dog walker who makes house calls: There are professional mobile groomers that will groom your pet in a van parked outside your house.  There are also professional dog walkers to help out when you can’t walk the dog, and pet sitters to watch your pet if you have a medical emergency? Let’s Join Paws is a website that matches owners and pet caregivers that can help.
3. If you plan to move to assisted living or a nursing home, find a place that is pet friendly: It will help with the adjustment and you won’t need to separate from your beloved pets.
4. Check if the Meals on Wheels of America program in your area delivers free cat and dog food, and sometimes more, to those who qualify or to veterans.
5. If you have a friend who is in a similar situation and looking for a pet, programs like the Washington Animal Rescue League in D.C. called “Boomer’s Buddies” pair adopters ages 50+ with animals five years and older. It also waives the adoption fee. For a comprehensive list of veterinary assistance and other services, visit the Humane Society of the United States website for a state-by-state breakdown. Hope this is helpful, and thanks for being such a loving mother to your pets!

Purrs and Kisses,

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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.