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An older man holding a Corgi dog takes a selfie with his phone in the forest.

The 6 Best Pet Companions for Seniors


Many senior living communities encourage residents to bring along their small cat or dog. But seniors need to consider their needs and capabilities in relation to a prospective pet’s size, energy level, temperament, and grooming requirements. They also need to factor in any breed, weight, or other restrictions their senior living community has in place.

There are many, many purebred and mixed-breed dogs and cats that make wonderful companions for older adults, but these six breeds are our top picks.

Top Dogs

In general, smaller dogs with calm dispositions are best for seniors, as they eliminate many of the physical challenges that come along with a larger, more active pet. Smaller dogs also comply with pet policies at most pet-friendly senior communities. Here are our top three picks for a small to midsize dog:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Weighing in between 13 and 18 pounds, the long-eared Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is affectionate, gentle-natured, and easy to handle and train, making it a great option for seniors. The Cavalier will need regular brushing and ear cleaning and probably an occasional trip to the groomer.
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi: Corgi’s are good enough for Queen Elizabeth and they’re also a good choice for older adults. This friendly, midsize breed has minimal grooming requirements, weighs up to 30 pounds, and likes regular walks but isn’t super active.
  • Bichon Frise: The fluffy, white Bichon Frise has a happy and playful disposition that makes it a fantastic companion dog. Bichons typically weigh between 7 and 12 pounds and do well with a moderate amount of daily exercise. They shed very little, so are less likely to trigger allergic reactions in humans. However, they will require a trip to the groomer every one to two months to prevent mats.

Cat Companions

For older adults who want a pet but may not have the mobility or energy to take a dog on daily walks, cats are an excellent option. They are more independent, generally clean, and groom themselves (although long-haired cats will require regular brushing or combing), and make less noise than a dog.

  • Birman: These beautiful cats look like a cross between a Persian and a Siamese, with medium-length cream fur, deep blue eyes, and a brown color point pattern on the face, ears, legs, and tail. Birmans have no undercoat to shed and are gentle, friendly, and sociable – usually preferring to hang out close to their owners.
  • American Shorthair: These easygoing, low-maintenance kitties typically have a long lifespan with few health problems. American Shorthairs are affectionate but not too demanding and can weigh anywhere from 7 to 17 pounds. Their short-haired coats require minimal grooming and come in more than 80 different colors.
  • Russian Blue: Named for its country of origin and striking blue-gray coloring, the Russian Blue has short, plush fur and bright green eyes. This intelligent breed is playful but generally languid – usually preferring to sleep in a quiet, sunny spot (or lap) rather than romp and roam.

Puppy or Kitten vs. Adult?

Puppies and kittens are almost irresistible and bring so much joy. But they also require a lot of work with house training, obedience or litter box training, socialization, and the need for more exercise. With a dog or cat over six months in age, you can more accurately assess temperament, and they are likely to already have some training. However, it can sometimes be harder to train or retrain older pets if they have established negative behaviors. Gauging a puppy’s personality is harder, but there are also puppy tests to assess key personality traits. Some senior living communities will only allow pets that are already house trained and fully vaccinated, which may influence considerations about the ideal age for your new kitty or pooch.

Pet ownership offers many positive impacts on both mental and physical well-being. Enjoy the process of choosing your four-legged friend and the years of companionship that will follow. For more ideas on better aging, visit the Brightwater Senior Living blog.