Help Caring for Pets When Faced with Hardships

Many families sheltering at home during Covid shutdowns did whatever they could to make the experience more enjoyable.  They purchased exercise equipment, office furniture, above-ground pools, bicycles, and pets.  Now, with soaring inflation, some people are not only trying to sell their pandemic purchases, but animal shelters are experiencing more pets being surrendered.  

According to The Washington Post, more than 23 million U.S. households, nearly 1 in 5, adopted a pet during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, several years later, workers have returned to on-site jobs, children are back in school, and many families don’t have the time or financial resources to devote to a pet. 

Households on a tight budget may not be able to hire pet-sitting help when they can’t be at home to walk the dog or feed the cat.  With rising costs for human food and housing, added pet supplies and care expenses can force some owners to make the difficult decision to surrender their furry companion.  The ASPCA estimates annual food, supplies and routine medical care costs about $500 to $1,000 for a dog and $650 for a cat, but unexpected veterinary care can soar into the thousands of dollars and drive pet owners into debt. 

To help families, including seniors on fixed incomes, keep their pets, many pantry programs have expanded to include providing pet food and other basic supplies like cat litter.  Financial distress is the number one reason people surrender their pets.  When older adults face illness or disability, caring for a pet can be impossible. 

Pet ownership for seniors offers many benefits, including relief from social isolation, motivation to move more, and a sense of purpose. There are a growing number of organizations that work to help keep pets and older adults together by providing temporary care when seniors are ill or injured, mobile veterinary care and monthly pet food support.   Seniors with pets are less likely to suffer symptoms of depression, experience illness or report feeling lonely.  Pet ownership also can boost brain health by providing mental stimulation in the care of and engagement with animals.