May Is National Pet Month

May 6, 2013
Pets can make a difference in the lives of so many people.

Pets can make a difference in the lives of many elderly people.

The month of May is officially National Pet Month, a time to celebrate the joys that pets bring to people’s lives. Those taking care of elderly loved ones with pets know that non-human companions can have a significant impact on their patients’ health, disposition, and outlook.

A Special Bond

Pets are beloved by humans because we tend to forge special bonds with them. We assign them personalities, sometimes based on ways that they act and sometimes based on what we look for in a companion, and over time they become almost like members of the family. In many cases, pets provide an unquestioning sense of love that makes us feel wanted and important. There’s nothing quite like the comforting feeling you get from a cat purring contentedly at your feet or from a dog raising its head and flopping its tail back and forth when you enter a room.

There's nothing quite like a purring cat.  (Photo: Bertil Videt)

There’s nothing quite like a purring cat. (Photo: Bertil Videt)

Pets Can Help

Pets also can assist home caregivers who are taking care of elderly patients. When Mom is feeling agitated or stressed, she may find relief by putting Kitty on her lap and stroking her. The action of petting, the sound of the cat’s happy purr, and the warmth of her body in Mom’s arms all combine to reduce agitation. This can be especially beneficial if Mom is dealing with some unpleasant news or if she’s nervous about an upcoming doctor’s visit. Pets can also help those who have a difficult time “winding down” before bedtime.

If Dad has been a little too housebound lately, he might benefit from walking Rover and getting out in the fresh air. He can also get a little exercise in the process, and if you can encourage him to stay outside and throw a stick or a ball for Rover to fetch, he can get a little more.

Sometimes, even just the memory of a beloved pet can have an impact. Remembering the funny things that Grandma’s old parrot would say might get Grandma out of the funk she’s fallen into. Grandpa may be getting far down the path of dementia, but if he still has strong memories about that beagle and his floppy ears, reminiscing about him can bring comfort and happiness and provide a bonding experience between you and Grandpa.

Bird songs can be soothing. (Photo: Tanya Dropbear)

Bird songs can be soothing. (Photo: Tanya Dropbear)


Celebrate Your Pets

Take advantage of National Pet Month. Pay special attention to the pets in your life or in the life of the elderly individual you take care of. Spend time talking with your loved one about the pets that are currently in your lives and reminiscing about the special animals that have contributed so much in past years.

Pets require a little attention, but they give back so much more.








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Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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