January 30, 2018 — When you are planning your retirement there is one factor you might have overlooked – how your pet(s) fits into your plans. Retirement often means big changes in lifestyles that can affect our furry friends. For example many of us might want to move to an active community, where there might be restrictions on the breed, size, and number of pets we can own. We might be traveling more, either on long delayed bucket list trips or visiting grandchildren, and that means more periods when you need to find someone to care for Flossie.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association 36% of American households own a dog and 30% have a cat. Surprisingly, cats outnumber dogs – 86 million to 76 million – because people tend to own more cats per household. Pet owning households are very passionate about their pets, usually viewing them as members of the family. This comment from Robert sums it up: “Wonder what kind of world we would have IF people loved each other as much as they love their pets”?
Many people are just not ready to give up their pets, even if it means they have to modify their retirement plans. In this article we will review some of the issues around having pets in retirement. To do that we have gone to the best source of practical information we have – our Members. We’ve selected a sample of the more than 150 comments you made to past articles about pets (see bottom of page for those), and then arranged the comments by topic. We are eager to see what additional comments you might have for us.
Other people’s pets
Some pet owners are their worst enemy and make it more difficult for the rest of us, merely by not taking care of their furry friends the way they should. So, of course, rules and regulations must apply, within reason (godsgirl)
I love dogs BUT they are a continuous problem no matter where you live and especially in 55+ parks. There are ALWAYS a few owners who cause the most problems by not cleaning up after their pets, barking and yes even some times attacking others. ..we all know that is really isn’t so much the dog problem as it is the uncaring OWNERS who are the real problem. Personally if I didn’t own a pet I would move into a 55+ park with NO PETS – if it is enforced. (Robert)
Finding a community that welcomes pets
Having adopted many of the abused or abandoned there is no way I would leave him behind when I move. The issue here is finding accommodating 55+ communities where dogs especially over 50 pounds are welcome. Larger breeds are often left out and often behave better than smaller breeds.
We live in Robson Ranch, Texas and have two dogs. We knew this 55+ community would be perfect for our dogs when we were met by signs stating “DON’T LEAVE YOUR PETS IN THE CAR, THEY ARE WELCOME HERE”…and they meant it. (Sondie)
A good resource in some DelWebb communities…go to planning resources and then to “ask a resident”. Of course, these are residents that are happy! However, they give good info on pet restrictions, fencing, property tax, etc. It reminds me of questions to ask. You can certainly ask about cats for these options.. I wish more communities had this resource. (Elaine)
We moved from NY to Pawleys Island SC, actually in a Litchfield by the Sea community. The area is next to the ocean, the communities are gated and yards can be fenced for your dog. Also, the beach is dog friendly but must be leashed from 9am to 7pm. There is also a beautiful gated community a short drive south -Debordieu, which is gated and yards can be fenced for your pet. (Gerry)
Our condominium is probably the best place in this city of 25,000 people to have a pet. Many developments do not allow pets at all. We live at Lakeridge Condominium in Winter Haven FL. (David Lane)
What I find as a limitation is that many of the places I am looking at have ‘pet’ and ‘non-pet’ sections, and, typically the pet sections rarely have resales. there is huge demand for the ‘pet’ sections. And, the units are usually higher priced (because they can get it, I’m sure). So this is a concern for me. (Ginger)
My husband and I, both retired, are looking to move from our large home into a 55+ active adult community. Problem – We have 4 dogs and an aged cat….oh, and there is the horse, but he is really not a factor.
If you’re planning on getting a pet to keep you company during retirement, plan ahead. When they say they accept two animals, ASK whether they mean two animals that people see outdoors, i.e. your dogs, or that they also accept house cats as long as they are kept in the house. Some places accept only house cats (find out how many first!) and some accept a dog, but only one. The rules are all over the place. (Tom)
Traveling with pets
The only problem I’ve run into is that one particular hotel chain puts people with pets in the most disgusting, filthy rooms they can find. We tend to stay at Best Western – clean rooms and most try to put you in a room convenient to a grassy area if they know you’re traveling with a pet. We do have a motorhome that we use if we’re taking a longer trip. (Kathie)
I can’t imagine never having them but if we decide to change our lifestyle we could adapt accordingly. That’s one reason we chose cats, as they are independent and can be left alone for a few days without supervision. (Vic)
We love our 3 cats dearly and wouldn’t trade them for a retirement community. They give endless, unconditional love in return for food and a clean litter box. If one wants to travel, one must recognize the cost of boarding or getting a pet sitter. It is far less stressful to have our cats than to have boomerang kids! (Carol)
Pets can be a real problem for people who must deal with them after the owner is gone. I inherited a dog which would never be adopted if I didn’t keep it. People really should consider what they are doing when they take on an animal that is likely to outlive them. (LFremont) (Note: Shumidog suggested “Contact the AKC breed club/breed rescue for your breed”.)
(After I lost my cat…) living on my own I got “lonely” for that pet/kitty companionship. So I got a rescue kitty and he has been great. I factored in that boarding would be part of travel expenses if I went away for longer than a few days. That has worked well. But now … my daughter and husband are expecting their first child. Great news. And (now)… they are moving/job related to Australia! I plan to go in April for up to three months. And that is way too long, not to mention very expensive, for boarding. So now what do I do? (Karen C)
Unable to part with pets
I feel sorry for someone who has “owned” a dog instead of enjoying the irreplaceable joy having it become part of the family supplies. I could no more give away my dog than my husband — in fact, a lot of studies show that the latter is easier than the former for most women (Gigi2)
I’d rather die than give up my dog. He’s my partner, best friend, keeps me entertained and gets me out and about. I think I need him more than he needs me! He’s a gorgeous Old English Sheepdog, I know that he would be adopted by someone else in a heartbeat, but he means too much to me to give up. I’m planning my travel and retirement home to accomodates both of us here in the USA. (Gelsomina)
NO PET rules have seemingly become difficult to enforce. Used to be “seeing eye” dogs or “hearing” dogs were the only exceptions. But now since you can’t discriminate against people with any type of disability…….”emotional support animals” are in NO PET communities. And it is not difficult to get a dog classified as such. And this is how dogs are now in “no pet” places. No one wants to challenge whether the dog is a pet or a service animal. (Karen)
I believe noise and disturbances for people who choose to live in community with others must be a balanced sort of thing. Yes, some tolerance is required. But it is not appropriate, either, to be a victim of other people’s rudeness or lack of consideration. Or of people who flaunt the regulations or ordinances. (Karen)
Benefits of owning a pet
To paraphrase researcher Panteleimon “Paddy” Ekkekakis, Ph.D.: The best piece of exercise equipment might be a dog on a leash. (Jan Cullinane)
It is clear from all of these comments and many casual conversations that pets are a very emotional subject. Even folks who genuinely don’t like pets have to consider that factor when they evaluate a place to retire. Many pet lovers will never give up their pets, while others are in the “enjoy our last pet because we are not going to get another” camp (and sometimes there is no matrimonial agreement on that)! If you are among those that intend to retire with pets, then you had better think how you are going to manage that. As you can see from this article there are a host of decisions to be made, starting with what kind of community you are going to retire to, as well as what kind of pet(s) you decide to have. Bottom line: it is better to think these issues through earlier than later.
Please share your thoughts about pets and retirement in the Comments section below.