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Cats and elderly people are a purrrfect match

susan harrelson

Elderly people need companionship too


Elderly people and cats make great companions for each other for many reasons.  Many times the elderly feel lonely or need a friend to help pass the time between visits from family, friends and neighbors.  This can be a source of guilt or sadness for the caretaker, realizing their elderly family member or neighbor may be lonely and in need of affection and a reason to rise and shine in the morning.  This doesn’t have to be the case for your family member or friend… a cat can be there for them morning, day and night.

When selecting a companion for your loved one, be sure to choose an older, mild mannered cat and not a high energy playful kitten. Kittens require constant attention and can be a source of frustration and worry for an older person.  While an older, docile, litter box trained cat would be a stress free pet with little or no maintenance at all.  Many organizations like the local Humane Society have plenty of older cats to choose from.  Even family or friends may know of someone who has a cat that needs a home.  Unlike cats, dogs require more attention in their day to day care.  Needing to go outside for potty breaks or needing to go for a walk.  This is why I believe a cat makes a better friend for the elderly than a dog.

Disposable litter boxes could help

Be sure that your elderly family member can handle caring for their new friend or perhaps a neighbor or someone close by can assist them if they are not physically up to feeding, watering and maintaining the litter box.  If the litter box poses a problem because of the time required to clean and maintain a germ free environment, then consider trying a disposable litter box.  I use a disposable litter box and find it lasts a week with no scooping for my average sized cat, up to a month with regular scooping.  The style I use is a covered disposable litter box and it greatly reduces the amount of litter scatter.  This type of litter box can turn the chore of litter box maintenance into a hassle free endeavor for the elderly or their care giver.  Don’t let the maintenance of caring for a cat prevent your loved one from owning and enjoying a new friend who needs them too.  It’s just too easy to do with a disposable litter box.  Cats don’t require a lot of maintenance, just food, water, affection and a clean litter box.

Selecting a cat just for them

If your elderly family member has never owned a cat there are a few things which can help ensure getting their new relationship off to a good start.  First off, take your newly acquired pet to the veterinarian for a check-up.  An elderly person doesn’t need a sick or frail cat to tend to.  Find one that seems to match their personality, playful, content, lazy, affectionate, independent, the list goes on and on.  I believe a de-clawed cat works best for the elderly who are prone to infection from scratches and scrapes.  A de-clawed cat will be use to being indoors and will be content just being around the house.  Often the previous owner can describe their cats’ personality for you.  If you acquire a cat from the Humane Society, the care giver there may know which cat would be best for your loved ones’ needs.  If possible, have your elderly family member go along when choosing a cat… often the cat will choose them!

Eliminating all their concerns

Most elderly people will be concerned about who will be responsible for their friend if they are away from the house for any length of time.  This issue needs to be addressed prior to finding a cat as a companion.  Elderly people are compassionate and wouldn’t even consider owning a pet if there is any chance they will be abandoned or left uncared for.  Be sure to have a plan in place for caring for the cat while they are away or after they are gone.  This peace of mind will usually help them in making a decision on getting a pet.  Sharing this responsibility with other family members or a neighbor will be beneficial for everyone.

Cats can make great companions for the elderly.  But they will never replace human contact and affection.  Visit your loved one often and have other family members or friends share in this gift of love.  Perhaps you will be the one feeling blessed by the time you share with your elderly parent or friend.

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