August 2008 Issue

Keeping Elderly and Their Cats Together

Living with a pet can be wonderful company for an older person. Here's how you can help.

Mary Jones has been living in New York City with her housemate Alice for the past ten years. Mary and Alice are actually about the same age. Both want to stay together for as long as they can take care of each other. But Mary is an 80-year-old widow and Alice is an 11-year-old domestic shorthair. Mary’s eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, and her arthritis bothers her when she bends over. So she worries how she will keep on cleaning Alice’s litter box and carrying the heavy bag of cat food up the stairs. And she wonders what will happen to Alice if her beloved companion outlives her. We’ve heard a lot over the past several years about how older people benefit both emotionally and physically from living with pets. The problem is this: As people get older, they often experience disabilities which may prevent them for fully caring for the pets they love. What can older people do?

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