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Pet guardianship important for seniors

Pet guardianship important for seniors

Q:My elderly friend, Barbara, has always had a cat. Recently she told me she wonders if she should keep Polly, her 4-year-old indoor cat. She worries that she’s not a good pet parent because she’s getting a little forgetful and her balance is worsening. How does someone know when she’s too old to have a pet?

A:Please reassure your friend that a few minor changes in her routine will give her the confidence she needs.

Tell her that pets benefit from having caregivers who spend a lot of time at home. Remind her that they contribute a great deal of joy and unconditional love to people’s lives. Pets not only improve human health and prolong life, but they make life worth living.

To help Barbara remember daily tasks, make a cat care calendar for her to hang on the refrigerator. First, choose a blank calendar template from the internet. In every daily block, add three circles, each followed by one instruction: feed, water and litter. Then print out the calendar and give it to your friend.

If Barbara already has a calendar she likes, you can print out stickers with the three circles and instructions, and she can place the stickers on her calendar. After she completes each task, she’ll put an X in the circle. If Barbara feeds Polly twice daily, you can add two circles to the cat care calendar, or she can purchase a feeder with a timer that automatically opens the food bins at the right times.

The next issue is Barbara’s balance. If Polly zigzags through her legs, give Barbara a water pistol so she can squirt her cat when she’s underfoot. It’s probably best that Barbara not bend over to pick up Polly, but instead, sit down and let Polly jump onto her lap.

Help Barbara find a house call veterinarian or offer to drive her and Polly to the animal hospital for regular wellness care and problem visits. Finally, Barbara may feel more peace of mind if she makes pet guardianship arrangements now for Polly in the event her cat outlives her.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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