Caring for Pet Pals in Retirement


Caring for Pet Pals in Retirement

Pet ownership, as you get older, comes with great joys and responsibilities.

June 10, 2015

The joy. Oh, the joy of coming home, enthusiastically welcomed by your darling Havanese or greeted by the soft purr of your rescued tabby. You can’t put a price on that unconditional love and steadfast companionship or the value your fur family adds to your life. But if you’re about to retire, there are a few things to consider as an older pet owner.

Relishing the benefits. Besides companionship, pets provide health and social benefits, too. Not only do they encourage you to exercise and remain engaged, but their presence can:

  • Help you establish a schedule
  • Stave off feelings of isolation
  • Entertain you with their antics
  • Reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and stress
  • Increase your brain’s serotonin and dopamine, and
  • Give you a sense of purpose

Your pet benefits, too. Adopting one of the millions of pets in shelters can save a life even as it improves yours.

With more than 164 million pet households in the United States, chances are good that a pet story will be welcomed at just about any gathering.


Finding your type. If you’re looking for a new pet companion, be sure to consider:

  • Your chosen breed’s temperament and energy levels
  • Life expectancy of the animal
  • Your anticipated lifestyle five to 10 years from now
  • Nontraditional pets, such as fish, birds, reptiles, turtles, bunnies and ferrets
  • Annual costs of care, boarding and food

Assuming the responsibilities. Once you’ve welcomed a pet, be sure to budget for the time and money required to properly care for it. You’ll need to provide.

  • Appropriate food, water and shelter
  • Preventive and veterinary care
  • Flea and tick prevention
  • Vaccinations
  • Grooming
  • Training and socialization
  • Exercise and toys
  • Proper identification and registration

Planning for realities. Yes, a pet’s love is priceless, but the responsibility is not. Here’s what we mean:

  • The average American pet owner spends $1,600 on a dog and $1,100 on a cat PER YEAR.
  • The first year can cost anywhere between $400 and $10,000.
  • Each subsequent year could add $300 to $9,500 to your living expenses.
  • Emergency veterinary care, teeth cleaning, grooming, boarding and fencing are among the highest expenses.
  • Pet insurance, if desired, can run as much as $550 per year, depending on the benefits.
Spending on pet items is expected to be $60.5 billion this year.


Facing the inevitable. Pets age as their humans do. And that requires special consideration to ensure they are well-cared for throughout their lives. You may want to consider:

  • Naming them in your estate plans
  • Naming a guardian and a backup should they outlive you
  • Specialty trusts and letters of instruction in a will
  • Including them in any emergency evacuation plan
  • Making funeral arrangements for your beloved animal in case they predecease you

Having “man’s best friend” by your side is rewarding, but full-time pet care is not for every retiree. If you do have a pet or want one, be sure to plan for it in your budget and estate plans. For those who can’t commit to an animal companion, there are other options. Consider fostering or borrowing a pet for a day or two. Several apps and nonprofits help connect animal lovers with shelter animals that need companionship, too. 

Sources: WebMD; New York Times; American Pet Products Association; American Veterinary Medical Association; Petfinder

View more

Back to Top

Should You Consider a Pet Trust?
Should You Consider a Pet Trust? READ READ

A Vital Role
A Vital Role READ READ

The Unofficial Field Guide to the American Snowbird
The Unofficial Field Guide to the American Snowbird READ READ