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Why Cats Make the Best Pets for Retirees

Allie Johnson

When it comes to finding the right pet for your life after retirement, felines are the cat’s meow. Low maintenance and mellow, cats require little work and offer big benefits.

After 65-year-old Fredi Miller retired from her job as a cat caregiver at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, she adopted a special needs cat, Naveen, who had been under her care at the sanctuary. In the months since Miller brought her home, Naveen has bonded with Miller’s other two cats and her special needs foster cat.

Naveen, who used to spend her days alone in a cat tree, now socializes and plays. Watching the cat’s personality blossom has brought much joy to Miller’s first months of retirement. “She adds so much to my life,” she says.

If you’re retired or planning to retire, you too might want to consider adding a feline friend to your life. Here are eight reasons cats make the best pets for retirees:

1. Cats Sit Quietly by Your Side

Plenty of retirees take up hobbies like cycling, running, and even skydiving, but for many, retirement is a time to settle into quieter pursuits like reading, coloring and binge-watching the must-see TV series your friends recommended. Cats make perfect companions for those low-key activities.

Despite their reputation for independence, many cats actually enjoy curling up on the couch with their humans, points out Steve Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that gathers and funds research on the benefits of companion animals.

Two of Miller’s cats love to snuggle up on her lap while she watches TV, but even Inga, her independently minded third cat, will climb into her lap when she’s in the mood. Miller says.

2. Purrs Provide Soothing White Noise

There’s something special about a cat’s purr, and many find the sound exceptionally calming. Cats likely purr for a variety of reasons, and in various situations, such as when they’re happy, hungry or even stressed. Think of it as a way to self-soothe. And purring may help cats to heal by reducing pain, repairing bones and stimulating muscle growth.

There’s even speculation that those same vibrations may have beneficial effects on human health, but more research needs to be done. In the meantime, we’ll have to take the word of cat owners who claim that the soft purrs of their favorite feline quells anxiety.

3. Petting Reduces Stress

There’s something especially wonderful about petting the soft, silky fur of a cat. A cat’s coat may contain as many as 130,000 hairs per square inch, which is one of the reasons it feels so luxurious to the touch. And petting your cat doesn’t just feel good, it’s good for you.

As you pet your cat, the level of oxytocin in your brain increases, Feldman explains. “Oxytocin is a really good hormone associated with reducing stress,” he adds. “The level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, goes down when petting your cat.”

4. Cats Do Your Heart Good

Having a feline friend around may promote heart health. One study found that current cat owners, and even those who had lived with a cat in the past, had a lower risk of dying from a heart attack than those who never had a cat. Should that stat send you to the local animal shelter to adopt a kitten companion? Give it some serious thought. Getting a cat “may represent a novel strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals,” according to the study.

5. Cats Can Get You Moving

Generally, the daily tasks associated with cat care aren’t physically taxing, but some activities due encourage light exercise, which can be good for your health, says Darius Russin, MD, a family practice physician and geriatrician in Austin, Texas.

For example, lightly brushing a cat that enjoys being groomed can be beneficial if you have arthritis in your wrists, Russin explains. Playing with a feather-and-stick can provide an arm workout, along with exercise for your cat. And throwing a small ball for your cat to chase encourages you to move around as you go through the motions of throwing the ball, walking to wherever your cat drops it, and bending to pick it up, he adds.

6. Cats Are Self-Cleaning

A major bonus to having a cat is that you almost never have to bathe your cat or pay a groomer to do so (though, if you have a long-haired cat, you might want to opt for regular trims).

Cats are meticulous about grooming themselves, and may spend as much as half of each day cleaning their fur. This is good news for retirees who either can’t hoist an animal into a tub or would rather spend their free time doing something a little more fun than trying to suds up a reluctant pet.

Another upside on the cleanliness of cats: You’re unlikely to ever have to scrub muddy paw prints off your floors.

7. Cats Are Relatively Affordable

If you no longer have a steady paycheck coming in, you might be looking for an animal friend that won’t break that bank. Although any pet—even a fish—can become sick and require emergency vet care, the day-to-day expenses of a cat tend to be fairly manageable.

On average, cat owners spend less than $250 annually on food and less than $200 a year on routine vet care. And perhaps because cats don’t require walks and you can have a friend or a neighbor check on your cat if you’re gone for a long weekend, cat owners spend only about $130 a year on boarding. Plus, cats don’t tend to destroy their toys so they last a long time, so cat owners spend only about $28 a year on toys.

8. Cats Won’t Bother the Neighbors

If you’ve recently downsized, you might be living in an apartment, town home or other location where you’re closely surrounded by neighbors. Luckily, you probably won’t have to worry about your cat disturbing anyone who lives nearby. Cats are so quiet that your neighbors may not even realize you have a pet.

In short, there are many reasons feline friends and retirement make a good match. “Cats are wonderful animals, and they make excellent companions,” Miller says.

RELATED: Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe in the Car

23 Responses to "Why Cats Make the Best Pets for Retirees"
    • John Pickard | November 7, 2022 at 11:04 am

      A cat, such as our Caleb, really enjoys us when he realized it is OK to be loved. He is a two person cat who will leave when a stranger approaches.

    • Lynda Hamblen | December 21, 2020 at 5:37 pm

      This is a great article Allie!
      Cats are always there for you. You can always rely on them whenever you feel like you need a companion.

    • Rosemarie Johnson | November 7, 2019 at 11:20 pm

      I have 4 cats which are all rescue. 2 of them i was actually baby sitting , for one of my elderly neighbors who was in the in hospital. I knew both of them from the time they were kittens. Anyway the last conversation i had with my neighbor was her asking me how her babies were. I told her you know im giving them plenty of hugs and kisses. She said i know you are. Unfortunately she passed the next day. So there was no way i could take them to a shelter. I already had 2 others and 1 is special need. So there is never a dull moment. But i wouldnt change it. I love all 4 of them.

      • Extra Mile Staff | November 8, 2019 at 7:44 pm

        Hi Rosemarie, thank you for sharing. Your neighbor (and those kitties) are lucky to have you.

    • Maui Davis | December 27, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      I don’t want litter box paws on my kitchen counters. They roam at night.

    • Gladys Wallace | December 27, 2018 at 5:16 am

      I live in the country. Often abandoned cats find my place. At present I am feeding a dozen outside kitties. I also have 4 inside cats, two of which also go out at times. I love all my cats and also my 2 dogs, who put up with a lot from the cats. When I sat in my recliner, I usually have at least two cats sleeping in my life. It’s soothing to hear them purr. I am a retiree …75 yrs.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 2, 2019 at 12:37 pm

        Thanks for sharing your experience with your pets, Gladys!

    • Bev hardman | December 22, 2018 at 11:59 pm

      Enjoyed this site I too am a cat lover, I have 2 rescues Foxy was a 7 month abandoned by the mother to die she was sick with a bad eye and she is now 17 years and is healthy except for one eye that get meds, the other was around 12 years and was dumped one night he is our big boy sleeps in our beds. Over the year we have had 9 cats that just showed up that we had neutered and spaded and shots and find homes for. And last week 7 new ones showed up so feeding them and here we go again.haha

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 2, 2019 at 12:34 pm

        Thanks for sharing your love for cats, Bev!

    • Marjorie Edwards | December 22, 2018 at 12:38 am

      There’s nothing more soothing than listening to a cat purr. One of our 10 rescues, Velcro, can’t purr. He only grunts. When he found me as a baby (I was walking into a Chinese restaurant to get take out & he came from out of nowhere & jumped on my chest), he had a serious respiratory infection. I wonder if that affects his purr. They all give me comfort. But, remember to make sure that there will be someone to care for them when you can’t.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 2, 2019 at 12:32 pm

        Marjorie, Velcro is lucky to have you!

    • Toni | December 21, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      I have always had at least one cat in my life. My Georgie was 19 when she passed 2.5 years ago. I wasn’t ready for another as I was heartbroken. We had our dog, whom we loved dearly. This summer it was time and we went to a shelter to get a kitten. We were not sure how a grown cat and our older dog would get along. We love being outside so we wanted a kitten to leash train. Ruby Jiggs is a pistol! She loves to play fetch, yep, she will chase the ball and bring it back. She wears her halter at all times and loves being out on a long leash. Being a cat, she can be stubborn about walking in the direction we want to go! Our elderly dog passed at the end of the summer. We went to the rescue a few months ago and brought home a 12 month old Chihuahua Min Pin. They play together like they were littermates. They are wonderful company. I am grateful they are part of our lives.

      When Ruby is on my shoulder purring I feel myself relaxing.

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 2, 2019 at 12:31 pm

        Toni, thanks for sharing your story about your Ruby Jiggs!

    • Joan Hill | December 19, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      I have only one> a calico( my third) who is of great comfort and joy! A companion whom I talk to, play games with, cuddle with and love, who makes me laugh at her antics. She promptly appears when I am up for breakfast, again at 4pm ( dinner time) , at 7:30 at pantry door for snack and curls up at bedtime.
      I would be lost with out her company. She is a literary cat who loves to sit on any book I am reading on my lap or on arm of chair.

    • Anni | December 19, 2018 at 4:21 am

      So occasionally brushing or tossing a ball for a cat is considered exercising in Texas? 😂😂😂

    • Doris Render | December 18, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      LIttler boxes are ever so much easier than walking a dog with a bag in your hand to pick up the poop. You do it at your own time, rather than when they need to go. Cats don’t need walking when it is below zero out or when it is raining. I love dogs, but cats are so much easier.

    • Sherryl | October 4, 2018 at 8:49 pm

      I don’t do litterboxes.

    • EYDIE L SCHWERMAN | September 22, 2018 at 8:52 pm

      I also have 2 cats, Sofie and Sadie. My husband passed away 11 months ago and I don’t know what I would do without “my girls”! Great company!

      • Hannah Sullivan | September 24, 2018 at 12:44 pm

        Eydie, so sorry to hear about the passing of your husband. Cats are special animals!

    • Nancy | September 20, 2018 at 3:39 am

      What are you feeding your kitty for $250 a year? I spend way more than that and can’t talk em into getting a job. I feed kitty grain free dry kibble and organic wet can.

    • Audrey B. Krause | September 11, 2018 at 5:53 pm

      I agree with article. I live alone with my 2 cats and they are my constant companions, always on my lap, sleeping beside me, etc. The make my day!

    • Kathleen Wilson | September 2, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Nailed it! I’m up to 7 rescue (indoor) cats in addition to an outdoor, homeless, hood kitty, “Blackie.” Best part of my day is when I get home from work, (Yes, not even a retiree, almost there though) pull up in front of the house, she sees my car and comes running (I really think she’s excited because she knows she’s going to get fed.”

      I totally agree with the entire article. Especially the purring and just sitting on your lap or by your side on the couch. I even have one Tuxedo cat who loves to snuggle with me like a teddy bear when I sleep and another cat who is trapped in a dogs body who loves to play fetch with foil balls.


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