Text Size

The cat’s meow for companionship


There are contrarian views but pundits of ‘puss power’ insist that in the contest for the ideal animal companion cats win paws down. 

They may seem aloof and guilty of operating to their own agenda but this also means they are low maintenance.

According to the American Humane Society there are definite health and wellbeing benefits of having a cat around the house. 

One is improved mood. Ageing ‘milestones’ such as retirement, moving, loss of partner and friends can produce bouts of mental malaise including loneliness or depression. Studies have shown that pets help seniors overcome these by providing affection, companionship, fun and a sense of responsibility and meaning. 

In looking after a pet people tend to remain more active and mobile compared to situations where there are none around.

There are also health benefits. Even though cats need fairly minimal care, what they do require provides much-needed exercise for older owners. Even seniors who have arthritis or other physical limitations can easily care for cats. Caring for, and feeding, them calls for routines and activities seniors might not otherwise have, providing important mental and physical stimulation.

Dog lovers might insist that their charges can deliver anything a feline can. Which is true but there are certain trade-offs.

Here are a few.

Unlike dogs, cats are happy staying indoors all the time. 

Most adult cats require only 20 to 30 minutes of playtime per day, and interactive play does not require the owner to be mobile. A kitty fishing pole or the like lets senior cat owners engage their cat in play while sitting in their favourite chair.

Cats are also very content to spend most of their time sleeping on their owner’s lap or bed.



The cat acquisition check list

Opening your, or your friend or family members, home to a companion cat ticks all the ‘feel good’ factor boxes. But before you rush out to pick up your new puss think about the following. Again, these are recommendations from front line people involved in the animal welfare sector. 

Both cats and dogs can live as long as 20 years; sometimes older. Factor this into your plans—whether you’re looking at moving into a retirement village that might not accept pets. Or, if your pet happens to outlive you, make sure that provision has been made for someone to look after the animal. 

Kittens are cute and people think that taking on a youthful bundle of energy will, in turn, keep them young. This could be the case but training, establishing routines and cleaning up after a kitten could be more stressful than enjoyable. One reason why a more mature cat is the better option. Chances are they’ll require less exercise and more likely will be house trained. Kitten or adult:

Many people think that getting a kitten or puppy for a senior will help “keep them young,” when in reality, puppies and kittens often provide seniors with more stress than enjoyment. Choosing to adopt an adult cat or dog is generally a wise choice for seniors. Adult animals have fewer exercise and training demands, making them easier for seniors to keep up with. Additionally, older pets are also less likely to outlive their senior owner.

Whether you get your cat from a pet store or animal shelter like the SPCA make sure the cat you’re getting is a known entity versus something just reclaimed from the wild. Specify that you want an animal that is relaxed, friendly, cuddly and has no, or minimal, medical issues. 

These same facilities can also advise on the various cat accoutrements that will be required to make sure everyone is well cared for, happy and content. 

Feedback welcomed

We'd like to hear your thoughts on this article

Click here to submit your feedback.

Date Published: 7 July 2017

Review Date: 7 July 2022