20 tips for a happy retirement. #18 – Get a new pet.

I haven’t had many pets so am no expert on this subject. I haven’t a pet currently and have no plans to get one as even my daughter’s hamster, Harry is a bother when we go away. . When I was young my sisters used pester power and since we had mice my mother relented – Zoe arrived and not too many years later I left home, not because of her but in spite of her! When I had my first home I got another cat, Ollie a beautiful chocolate brown, he looked almost black unless in the sunlight when he had an almost orange glow! When my twin daughters arrived we didn’t notice that he had his nose put out of joint and shortly after he disappeared – this wasn’t unusual and we were sure he had at least a couple of other ‘owners’ elsewhere, but this last time he never returned. He was old and may have come off second best in a fight with a fox, or just lay down and died, we’ll never know. The pain of his loss was mitigated by having the babies to concentrate on. Neither Zoe or Ollie were particularly friendly or loyal, but then maybe cats seldom are, dogs on the other hand do I believe show these characteristics, always happy to see you and never straying and leaving for someone better!

Retirees can be lonely. Workmates don’t keep up and we may well lose more friends if we move away. The purpose and passion of a career can quickly fade away. A pet can give back some sense of purpose and are a great vehicle for connecting with new people.

A dog can make one feel needed and loved and distract us from distressing events and calm them when agitated. Truly a man’s best friend (?)


However there are many things to consider before taking on a pet, especially a dog. Many pets can live for 15 years or more. Where will you keep the animal over the coming years if you have to move home? Even small breeds of dog need walks. Larger breeds may be more challenging to handle as you get older. Will you feel able to do this? Will you be able to afford the vet bills and pet insurance? Have you factored these additional costs into your retirement budget?

If you still think pet ownership is for you, think about visiting a local animal shelter to ask for their advice on what’s practical, and possible. Do lots of research about your chosen pet before you make any big decisions though, as pets are ‘for life’. Pets are often overlooked when someone becomes unexpectedly ill, injured or even dies. Sometimes they are discovered days later, so it’s important if you do have a pet, or decide to get one, that you make adequate provisions for them to be cared for. Find some friends or relatives who will agree to become temporary providers for your pet and provide them with keys, care instructions and suitable vet contact details. For a more permanent arrangement, you will need to make more formal arrangements for your pet to be cared for. This means making provisions in your will, or other documentation, to outline your wishes and make suitable financial provision for their long term care. Don’t think this is going to be cheep!  A monthly average cost can be anywhere between £15-£20, or $20-60 per month. The number can vary vastly depending on how big your dog is, how active he is and how much he eats. This can come to an annual cost of dog food in the range of £180-£240 in UK and $250-700 per year in USA. Veterinary Insurance should be seriously considered, a big operation will not be any cheaper than for a human and several thousand £/$ could really stretch those heartstrings possibly beyond what we might reasonably be able to afford.

For every positive there is a negative – looking at dogs,


  • Unconditional love and companionship with lots of fun and laughter.
  • Health benefits – Fitness Dogs can model a good life as they are often in the moment and eager! Pets can help us relax, reduce stress levels, speed up recovery after an illness. Studies show people with pets are generally happier, more trusting, and less lonely than those who don’t have pets. They also visit the doctor less often for minor problems. Having a dog has also been shown to reduce blood pressure increase fitness and reduce our risk of heart attack and stroke. Fit as a fiddle in only 140 minutes a day! Pets as Therapy provide a visiting service in hospitals, hospices, and care homes all across the UK, enhancing the health and wellbeing of the older adults in those communities through their behaviourally assessed animals. Safety and security – We might feel safer with a ‘Guard Dog’ (Whatever the reality!)
  • Caring for something beyond yourself – known to increase happiness (Even if just a plant!)
  • Routine – if it’s defined by you!
  • Meeting other people and getting out of the house.


  • The difficulty of finding good care when you’re away so limitations on travel.
  • Twice or even thrice daily walks with constant companion monitoring every move!
  • Being tied to the dog’s routine!
  • It’s like having a child, one that doesn’t grow up.
  • Our physical restrictions as we age – What will you do if you become frail and unable to exercise a dog still with boundless energy. Chance of injury – big dogs can run off and take their owner’s with them. There is also the risk of bites and mauling. More than 50 percent of all dog bite victims are children. While only 12 percent of adults require medical treatment, 26 percent of all children need to go to the emergency room or see a doctor. The most likely place for the attack to occur is in the home of the victim. The total rates of dog and cat-induced injury were 15.1% and 8.7% during the lifetime, and 3.4% and 1.7% during the past year, respectively. Dog bites mostly occurred in the dog’s residence (49.4%). Cat scratches were more likely to be inflicted by one’s own cat (47.5%). Don’t forget the car, most owners transport their pets in the car and may are not restrained and can cause accidents.
  • Costs – SUBSTANTIAL – Variable but count on thousands a year whatever your currency!
  • A dog is for life, other’s may need to be persuaded and may not be there to help especially if raining!
  • Grief if the dog dies


Other things to consider

Size is an important factor simply because a larger dog might accidentally knock you over, but too small and your canine friend may be a major trip hazard!. This means choosing a dog that is somewhere in-between but one which is not too heavy to be picked up. Also some breeds are more prone to suffer from certain conditions. A lot of pedigree breeds do tend to suffer from congenital health issues whereas mongrels are usually a lot more robust health. You might also consider choosing an older dog as their energy levels will be lower and any health issues should already be apparent so limiting surprises later on.

Could you house a rescue cat or dog in need of a new home? Research has shown that our furry friends have a positive effect on our health and wellbeing.To find out more about rehoming a pet, visit your local animal rescue centre, the RSPCA or Dogs Trust. If you might be interested in volunteering to walk or foster an elderly person’s dog, contact The Cinnamon Trust.


… a cat is more independant and doesn’t need taking for walks but can still be a comfort and a friend!


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