What Happens to Older Pets, When People Go into Nursing Homes

What Happens to Older Pets, When People Go into Nursing Homes

Americans love their pets. Cats, dogs, birds, fish and exotic animals bring families joy and companionship. There are millions of pets in homes all over the United States. A family might have a cat or dog for ten years or much longer. An older person might have a pet to increase a feeling of safety and to ward off loneliness and depression. Let’s explore what happens to older pets when people go into nursing homes.

Although some assisted living centers allow some pets, with restrictions on the size, type, and number of animals, nursing homes do not allow residents to keep their pets in the facility. The options a person has will depend on many factors, such as available relatives or friends who could take in the pet. Some of the more common things that happened to older pets, when the owner goes into the nursing home include:

  • The pet gets to continue living in the home, because the nursing home resident’s spouse, friend or other relative remain living in the house. This situation is usually the best option for the pet. He stays in familiar territory and does not get disrupted by having to live somewhere else.
  • A friend or relative takes in the pet for the older loved one. The animal has to adjust to a different location, owner and schedule. However, at least he has a home.
  • The pet gets re-homed through a rescue organization. Sometimes these groups are breed-specific, like the entities that find homes for retired greyhound racing dogs.
  • The animal gets taken to a shelter. Some shelters serve as no-kill adoption centers, but many are not. If the pet gets adopted, he gets a chance at life with a new family. If no one takes him, he will likely get euthanized.
  • The pet gets abandoned. Tragically, millions of animals get left every year to fend for themselves. While life on the streets is hard enough for a young, strong cat or dog, an older pet is unlikely to survive.
  • The animal has the good fortune of getting rescued by a no-kill sanctuary or a non-profit agency that takes in older pets.

There are not enough no-kill sanctuaries or agencies to meet the need of all of the older pets without homes. However, with a little detective work, you can probably find one or two in your area. Posting the question on social media can help you find a place for a pet to get to live out his golden years.  You can also check with local pet rescue and lost pet groups on social media for suggestions about where to take an older pet, so he does not get abandoned or euthanized.

Why Adopting an Older Pet Can Be a Good Idea

Although a cute puppy is hard to resist, an older animal can be a better pet for a family with children. Older pets tend to be more settled and patient than high-energy young ones. The older pet is also likely already trained, so you will have less work on your hands. You can have the satisfaction of knowing that you saved an innocent life.


Huffpost. “Pet Retirement Home Rescues Dogs In Their Golden Years.” (accessed November 8, 2019) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/vintage-pet-rescue_n_5c141e0de4b049efa7524659