Dementia and Pets


Registered User
Oct 15, 2005
Hi all

Has anyone got any experience relating to pets and Dementia patients ? Can having an animal around make a difference?

Thanks for any inputs.

Sue Stimpfig


Registered User
Jul 2, 2005
My husband talks constantly about our cats. He gets their genders wrong sometimes, and probably would not be able to name them individually if asked point blank, but does know their names normally. They seem to be the most important thing in his life. I came home from shopping last week to be told, in sepulchral tones 'We've lost Harry'. As Harry is an ancient beast, not in the best of health, I said 'What ? He' s dead?'. Oh no, he just could not find him at the moment - Harry was sleeping peacefully under a bed upstairs.

I think he likes being able to use them as something to talk about, as his other conversation now is getting a bit off beam - he will tell anecdotes about things that happened years ago over and over again, but is hopeless at any sort of exchange of views that involve taking in what the other person says and responding.

And when he is being impossible (he is now like a difficult teenager, aged 72 and three quarters) I get considerable pleasure from cuddling up with a cat. Stroking pets is supposed to reduce blood pressure, so I think I should have mine on the National Health, along with the pills!


Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
near London
The answer about pets is probably, as always, "it depends".

Jan was the one who started us out on cats, specifically Russian Blues, and later [as well] Abyssinians.

As she lost her faculties at home, she found the cats a confusion at times. Other times she would ignore them entirely. Other times she would cuddle the Russian Blue [Abys are more wild in character]. Russians tended to choose Jan, Abys tended to choose me. [we all know that WE don't choose cats, they choose us!]

Since Jan has gone, our Aby developed a massive stomach tumour and I very regretfully had him put to sleep on vet's advice. Now the Russian remains, but I find him a painful reminder of Jan being at home and I really wish he weren't here. He is another worry in a life full of worries! But he is very forgiving and the house would be so empty without him.

At Jan's care home, a relative used to bring in her dog to see her husband, and the residents all loved to see it. The home regularly has a mobile farm come in - chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, rabbits, etc for a day with the residents and that goes down well.


Registered User
Sep 16, 2005
Dad and pets

Am sure that initially pets are good for the dementia sufferer and also the carers. Perhaps especially so for the carers if they like animals. I bought my two puppies, initially at Keith's (my partners) suggestion as he thought they might cheer me up (this was back when times were really really hard and like Brucie I went through very dark days) and they are a wonderful comfort when I get home and just sit in tears, I can do so in front of them without causing anyone concern and they just snuffle and sniff at me wondering why I am making strange noises and have a wet salty face, and then they make me laugh, and the world doesn't seem so bad anymore. :rolleyes: I have a silky cross and a jack russel. Never thought I'd want little dogs but their bright happy little faces are wonderful!

However, when it comes to dementia sufferers, like Brucie and Jan's situation with Dad there came a time when he stopped relating to his pets at all, this is sad to see, because pets miss their human parents too.What was worse in our case is Dad seemed to start to do worse than ignore them. :(

I can't say for sure if it was true because Dad was unable to talk by this time and could not really tell us what he was doing but on several occasions he appeared to try to take the cat or the dog by the throat and the look on his face was blood curdling. I don't know what would possess him to do so and whether he truly intended them harm but it wasn't worth the risk to the let the animals anywhere near him and for a time we were even concerned about the babies in the family. :eek: We had to remind ourselves that he had a mental illness and who knows what it might allow him to do that he wouldn't have ever done before.

Dad has an unbelievably strong grip these days and I often still get bruises from him holding my wrist too tightly. Its horrible to admit that we might have had reason to be concerned about his intentions, but thankfully by that time he was getting pretty bad at moving fast or being able to aim his grabs effectively. It was the first time and only time I thought this disease might actually turn Dad into somebody else and not just warp his underlying personality. My Dad the original Dad would never want to kill something for no reason...but there didn't seem to be any reason behind in the expression he held in his eyes the times he threatened the pets, it was horrible.

Moral of the story, be careful about rushing in to buy pets for your dementia sufferers although Dad's example may be a one off situation.... If you think it will be good for the carer then perhaps do so, but bear in mind the care of the pets may also be an extra burden when times get really exhausting. Another idea would be to have a family member with pets visit often or get the sufferer a pet but be ready to give it a new home if things turn bad.


Registered User
Jun 3, 2005
Only a theory, but ...

I think pets may be a comfort in the same way as enjoyment of gardens and flowers seems to be, as they are undemanding subjects. (Perhaps not necessarily actively handling them, or carrying out gardening tasks, but as 'neutral' things to talk about, or just enjoy with visitors if speech is difficult).


Registered User
Mar 13, 2004
I was bought a puppy last year (9 weeks old) the wee man was full of devilment and although my mum with Alz seemed to relate very well to him, he became too playful one day and latched on to the sleeve of mum's cardi. This terrified her and me and I hit him with a newspaper and hit him in the eye. He wimpered for ages, mum was in tears and so was I. Then mum fell over him. I didn't realise mum only had a few months to live at this time and between trying to nurse her and a 9 week old pup I nearly had a breakdown. I had to give the pup away.

Pets can be nice to have around for the patient but they are incapable of the responsibility of looking after it, so this is another job for the carer, it can all get on top of you very quickly with too heavy a workload so please be careful in making a decision as to getting an animal, they are really hard work and so is being a carer as you all know. Sometimes you can take on too much even though it's with a willing heart.


Registered User
Jun 2, 2005
Los Angeles, USA
The dementia home where my mom is has community pets -- i.e., owned by the home and for the love and enjoyment of all the residents and visitors. There are any number of birds in cages, several cats, and three large indestructible type dogs. Residents may bring their own pets when they move in, but this is kind of discouraged as it may lead them to spend over-much time in their room with just the pet and be less willing to socialize and be active (to whatever their ability).

In the few years before Mom moved here, she really missed having a dog, and the community pets was really a big plus in favor of this home as far as we were concerned.

In a residential facility this works out well -- the animals don't have just one "master" and feel abandoned if that person no longer recognizes them; the residents are not responsible for pet care they can no longer manage; the family does not have one more charge to take care of. Different situation of course for someone with dementia still in his/her own home.



Registered User
Oct 23, 2003
West Sussex
Hi all, my Mum always seemed to get pleasure from stroking or talking/watching our animals, so I guess she did enjoy them. Love She. XX


Registered User
Mar 12, 2005
West Sussex

My dog is big and bouncy, but as Mum's AD progressed, the dog was always totally calm and very gentle around her,behaving as she always does with very small children normally. It was almost as if she sensed that Mum was becoming as vulnerable as the little ones.

Mum is in a home now where there is a resident cat. She has never really been a cat person but will stroke the cat as long as it doesn't get onto her lap and often thinks it is a dog now, so it is a good focal point when we visit.

Several residents obviously love the cat and talk to it in a very gentle way, so I think on balance the right type of pet is a bonus for anyone in residential care.



Registered User
Oct 29, 2005
Leeds, UK
We've always had dogs, we have 3 atm, they know if mum is grumpy they stay far away.
Mum can't interact as she used to with them but she likes seeing them and they give her company, so yes, they are good but it depends on the individual case


Registered User
Jul 15, 2005
My Mom has a great dane mix and she is only 85 lbs and 4 feet tall! Thank goodness the dog is very gentle. Mom dotes over this dog and it is the focus of her life. She can't cook anymore but she can feed her dog. She walks and brushes her too. My only complaint is that she is so devoted to her dog that it has kept her from socializing or participating in much of anything ( this of course before she started getting worse ) She also tells the same dog stories over and over but we just pretend we've never heard it before.
I don't know what we will do if Mom has to go to a home and be separated from her dog, that alone will kill her. I just hope by then she will have forgotten her but I have a feeling the dog will be the last thing she will forget!



Registered User
May 14, 2006
I think it's a good idea for care homes to have community pets. The first one my Mum stayed in for a couple of weeks, had a large aviary full of small birds which were free to nest and an aquarium with interesting fish. Next door to the home was a livery yard and there were always horses and dogs moving around, but at a safe distance.
Another local home has a cat in each unit which some enjoy and others don't. I think my Mum misses having animals about more than anything. We do take the dogs to see her but not every time. There are wild birds and rabbits outside in the gardens which she can't see from her window.
I'm rather disappointed that the grass is looking very overgrown and the flower beds are full of weeds, as my Mum really enjoys looking at flowers and wildlife. The spring weather is taking a long time to arrive this year!


Registered User
Apr 21, 2006
Kendal, Cumbria

My parents always had cats in their lives and when the last one died a few years ago it was a real miss. Now a neighbours cat visits every day (the owners work full time). Dad says he feels more relaxed when a cat is in the house - and mum can pop out for a short while knowing that he has company. Dad doesn't have much conversation left, but he does like to talk about the cat


Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
My mother loved talking to or about cats in her during her last months, and dogs meant being able to say something to strangers when we went out for walks.

There was a woman with a cat in the respite place where she stayed, but they never seemed to come out of the room. My mother said she once went in to see the cat, I asked if the woman who owned the cat said anything. "Yes." "What did she say?" "She said go away!"

Oh well ...

People had tried to encourage my mother to get a pet in the last few years, but she knew it wouldn't have been fair to the pet. She wouldn't agree to us sharing one either.