Elderly Owners & Pet Loss

The loss of a pet can be devastating for the elderly pet owner. Many, particularly those who live alone, have a deep emotional attachment to their pet and can experience a sense of loss of purpose when it dies. The death of a pet may also renew feelings of grief for a deceased spouse or other relative or friend and is a tangible reminder of the owner’s own mortality. It could be that the owner had not fully grieved for the deceased spouse, relative or friend and this will also be added to the feelings. Support and understanding from people around them is very important at this time and some may need reassurance that they are still a valued member of the community.

The decision about whether or not to replace the pet can be particularly difficult for the elderly. There are many factors to take into account which may not previously have been a consideration, such as the level of exercise required, the need for companionship, the space and facilities available, cost and physical ability to care for the animal. Elderly owners will also be aware of the possibility that the pet will outlive them. These factors will all influence the choice of species, age and breed of replacement pet if, indeed, a replacement is sought at all. In making the decision, it is important to remember that the welfare of the animal is a prime consideration.