When Seniors Can No Longer Care for Their Pets

When Seniors Can No Longer Care for Their Pets

As some of you know this week I helped get a pet adopted quickly when his owner went into hospice.  The demise of the owner didn’t happen overnight but the family was so overwhelmed with the end of life issues they didn’t think about the pet until the last minute.  Pets are at risk.  After 9/11 about 800,000 pets were orphaned.  Each year between 100,000 and 500,000 pets are sent to shelters after their owners die or become incapacitated.  In many cases these beloved pets are euthanized because there is no plan in place. All pet owners need a plan as there is no guarantee than they will outlive their pet – but seniors are at an age where the odds are not in their pet’s favor.


Pets provide much needed comfort to seniors.  They are often the reason seniors get up in the morning.  Studies show that having a pet to share their love and time helps alleviate anxiety and boredom, and even improves health.  Love is the most important health tonic we have, and pets are one of nature’s best sources of love.  The pet that was adopted this week stayed on the owner’s hospital bed until the end – a blessing for both the senior and the pet.


To best protect these beloved pets, a succession plan should be created before the senior becomes seriously ill or dies.  It should include:


  • A replacement. Talk to family, friends, veterinarians, pet-sitters to determine the best person to become the new owner; make sure the new owner will take the time to bring the pet to the senior for visits and/or have the senior visit them.  Get the commitment in writing as too often people assume their son, friend or neighbor will take the pet.
  • 1 – 2 backups who are willing and able to care for the pet in emergencies and/or until a permanent situation is worked out.
  • If there is time, allow for the new owner to have extended visits with the current owner, start taking care of the pet for short periods before full-time ownership begins.
  • An information packet that includes the pet’s medical history, daily care needs (food, medicines, walks) and any other information they need to know (favorite toys, quirks).
  • Formalization of funding and other arrangements.


Create the plan now before it’s too late.  The plan will provide seniors great peace of mind knowing their cherished pet will be well taken care of when they can no longer do so.