Giving and receiving unconditional love with a dog, cat, or smaller critter is good for your heart—physically and emotionally. Caring for a pet offers proven benefits for many older adults, including boosting your mood and improving your brain and heart health.
Pets also help to combat depression—knowing that you are loved and needed enhances mental health. For example, a 2019 study reported that older pet owners who had lost a spouse were less depressed than non-pet owners who had suffered a loss.
The Seattle Animal Shelter, overseen by the City of Seattle’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services, typically cares for thousands of pets each year that need a loving owner or foster parent.
“With so many great pets available for adoption, it’s easy to choose the right one. You can find a pet whose age, size, personality, and energy level fit well with your needs,” said Esteban Rodriguez, director of the Seattle Animal Shelter. “Older animals in shelters have a lower adoption rate than puppies or kittens, but senior pets can be a great match for senior adults.”
Simply petting an animal reduces stress hormone levels and increases the release of serotonin, which is shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as boost your mood, according to Marwan Sabbagh, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
Pets also help us live more active, social, and healthy lifestyles, as dogs need to be walked and cats need at least 30 minutes of playtime every day. Even grooming your pet—washing or brushing it—provides exercise. Plus, walking a dog gives pet owners a chance to get out of the house and socialize with neighbors and caring for a pet helps to develop a routine, encouraging owners to eat regularly or complete chores and other tasks.
If you have mobility issues or are limited in your ability to provide constant attention to a pet, a cat might be a better choice than a dog.
Carefully consider the responsibilities of owning a pet, especially if you’ve never had one before, and explore the shelter’s website to learn about great pets in need of a home.
No matter your situation, you might just find a pet and a new best friend!
Contributor Susan Stoltzfus is a strategic advisor at Seattle Animal Shelter. To see animals currently available for adoption, visit seattle.gov/animal-shelter/find-an-animal/adopt or stop by the shelter at
Age Friendly Seattle Discount Program
Did you know that you can save 50% on pet license fees at Seattle Animal Shelter (if your pet has been altered) by using your Gold Card for Healthy Aging or FLASH Card? Visit the Discount Directory for more information. No card? Click here to learn how to apply.