Pets and dementia


Registered User
May 26, 2014
Asking for thoughts and advice ref getting a dog/cat to live with me and hubby (mid stage AD). I've recently scaled down my work commitments to spend more time looking after my husband, and am thinking of getting a pet - we've had numerous dogs and cats in the past and are currently looking after a relative's cat. Pros and cons anybody?


Registered User
Sep 4, 2011
Not sure if this is advice - more just thoughts.

My father , 84, lives at home with his border collie - she is 12. and they are devoted to each other. Dad has carers who visit 3 times daily and they feed water and exercise her - though dad is lucky enough to have a one acre garden so she gets plenty of time to run about outside.

So far, 4 years into Dad's dementia journey this has worked well. On the rare occasion that dad has got stressed he has lashed out at the dog but this is so out of character for him and usually when he has been put under pressure from someone else e.g. trying to get to an appointment on time and the dog got under his feet - I have only ever seen this happen twice.

To have an animal could be a wonderful companion/distraction for both of you, but will you you have time to give to the animal's needs as well as yours, paying vet's bills, excercising (if required) etc. Also, I would suggest that an older animal will require less house- training, excercise, should you decide to have a pet. As I said, just a few things to take into consideration. Good luck whichever you decide. :)


Registered User
Apr 3, 2014
near Folkestone
We opted for cats , have 2 as I was worried about taking a dog for walks once dementia got worse and I would not be able to leave OH on his own. My Oh loves the cats :) We also got 5 tortoises and a little pond with goldfish :)

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Registered User
Feb 10, 2014
having a cat works well for us

My OH spent the Autumn and early winter very withdrawn and silent for hours on end. I decided to get a ' new home needed' older cat as we have had cats in the past and he was fond of them, and I had not the energy to deal with a kitten. She has been a huge success, he looks for her when he comes into the room, talks to her, watches her watching the birds and other cats in the communal garden - so she has taken him out of himself and given him something else to think and talk about. He says she has brought new life into the flat. She does not sit on him or allow herself to be stroked by him - that she reserves for me, but he is OK about that - after all I feed her!
Yes there is the expense to consider - we have discovered our has a weak stomach so a visit to the vet, and we need to be careful about what she eats. But well worthwhile for the pleasure she brings.
I rejected the idea of a dog as I cannot reliably get out to walk one, and my OH has poor mobility/balance and couldn't walk it


Registered User
Oct 16, 2013
We have always had cats, now MOH has Alzheimer's and often looses his temper with me, but never with either of our cats, he speak to them, strokes them and they climb onto his knee.

As I see it, it all depends on whether or not the animal might suffer if it annoys your husband, personally I couldn't accept that.


Registered User
Oct 28, 2013
Hello mibs we have a cat, my hubby adores her, we have had many dogs and cats in our 51yrs together, l would say no to a dog as it needs walking, l would have to leave my hubby as he can not walk much now, if you have a large garden then thats ok for a dog, but l still think they need much more looking after.


Registered User
Nov 6, 2013
We opted for a dog.

Hi Mibs,

My husband has an allergy to cats so we opted for a rescue dog.

Initially my husband was able to take her for walks on his own and bonded with her really well. He no longer felt so anxious if I had to leave him for an hour and felt that he had company.

As time has gone on, he can no longer cope with walking her alone. This is simply because he cant cope with meeting other dogs, picking up poo etc, so we either walk together or I go alone. Going alone can be a godsend, it gives me time for a break and to sort my head out.

He loves the dog and chats to her and strokes her. I think without her, I might have been a bit suffocating. I have something else to care for and I sit and talk through my worries with her.

We have a dog walker once a week, which allows me and OH to have some time out together.

For us, a dog has been a great success and I know she has helped me with stress too.

A big decision and a lot to consider.

Good Luck!



Registered User
May 26, 2014
Thanks for all your replies - I'm leaning towards a cat, and probably an older, calmer rescue cat might be just the thing.


Registered User
Sep 17, 2010
It would be a good idea to ask yourself who'd look after the cat if you needed to be with your husband while he was in hospital. Most neighbours are willing to take on cat care as and when it's necessary.

I have dogs and there've been occasional instances when emergency trips to hospital have been made even more traumatic by the need to find someone able and willing to look after my dog for an unknown amount of time!


Registered User
Jul 27, 2013
I'd say either but older that may have had older owner previous.

My parents don't have pets but had dogs in their childhood, we always take our lab to their house when we go, she is thoroughly spoilt like any grandchild , has her own treats, sneaks a sleep on granny's bed and nuzzles in them both with tail wagging. They absolutely adore her and she doesn't see any difference as animals don't see 'problems ' the same as children.
I think you'd both enjoy company of some sort x
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Registered User
Sep 23, 2008
We do not have pets but when my husband was going through a really terrible patch the Pets as Therapy dog was one of the few things that calmed him and gave him pleasure.


Registered User
Jul 13, 2014
We got an old rescue cat for mum at Christmas and she gets such joy from her. few initial issues with things where mum was inappropriate such as trying to feed cat raw sausages and cutting her whiskers, but a small bag of cat treats and hiding scissors helped. Cat is often sat on mum's lap now both grinning!


Registered User
Nov 16, 2008
There are pros and cons. We have 1 dog, 2 cats and a tortoise . The puppy arrived 2 weeks after my husband had had a major stroke. The decision to have the puppy was one of the hardest ever and involved me giving up teaching in school. My husband could focus on nothing other than having the puppy after we had just lost our dog at a young age to stomach cancer. I chatted it over with my husband's consultant and GP, who both stressed what wonderful therapy animals are. My husband came out of hospital in a wheelchair. His whole focus to get walking again was for the puppy. The first year after his stroke, his walking improved and by the end of that year we were doing very long walks. Now his walking has declined, perhaps due to small vessel disease or various heart problems and he has to walk very slowly and avoids hills. He would be unable to walk the dog by himself, unable to pick up poo or even get through the front door whilst holding on to her lead. However every morning she leaps into his arms for a cuddle. His face lights up and he relaxes. She provides entertainment, love, distraction and laughter. However, I do worry about any further hospitalisation and leaving her, but you know what there are ways around all of these things. Friends from dog walks, dog classes, pet sitters etc... For us, it has been the right decision


Registered User
Aug 1, 2014
Victoria, Australia
We adopted a very boisterous Staffie cross aged 2 years about 18 months prior to my husband's diagnosis of AD and following the death of our old dog. I chose to get an adult dog as she was less likely to find a home and I didn't wish to be bothered with toilet training and other puppy issues.

OH used to walk her for an hour every morning but because of other health problems is now unable to manage it so I do it making sure that I do get some exercise every day.

She adores him and he loves her right back. She also demands that he plays with her and she sleeps on his bed every night and I think she helps reassure him and keeps him calm. I hear him talking to her if he wakes up and as yet I haven't had to deal with any night time wanderings or disturbances.

We are still in the early stages of dealing with this disease and what we will do about the the dog when he gets bad will be decided when that time comes.

But she is so good for him. He never gets grumpy with her like he does with me and the emotional connection between them is wonderful.

Happily, she still knows that I am the boss!


Registered User
Feb 28, 2013
new zealand
I saw an article on our TV news about research being done in Australia with 'assistance dogs' This is the link

Our house has had to become pet free now as OH has developed allergic reactions to cat fur/dog hair, but we have had many happy years as Mum and Dad to cats and a dog


Registered User
Feb 6, 2012
Choose your rescue cat carefully

We had an older rescue cat and she was an alienated miserable so and so when she arrived. Old enough to have learned to distrust all humans. Happy to be fed but not at all friendly. It is probably worth not taking one that has been abused. It took over a year for her to want to come into a room and sit where we were.

I would try and find a cat which has a good temperament. There will be ones out there needing a good home. My dad loves ours and it seems fond of him. I only worry that it will outlast him because I don't really want to have another kitten.

I can also recommend funny cat videos on the internet. They make him laugh


Registered User
Sep 13, 2014
We had three cats before my OH had dementia and now only one, but he is devoted to this animal and he finds him a huge comfort. I am thinking of getting another one as I dread the day when this ageing moggie is no more as OH will be devastated. Definitely think pets are a great therapy. Cats are less demanding and needy than dogs but then I am a cat person!!


Registered User
Jul 13, 2012
My Mum lives alone with her dog and cat and when asked by doctors what is important.
It is her Dog, cat and then me. ;)

She is on the edge of needing help/company during the day and encouraging to eat.
I've been told that care agencies won't visit unless the dog can be put in another room.
This she will not do, *Love me Love my dog" attitude.

If I lived with her I would have more animals as they have always been her life and kept her going, but on her own I think a new animal would be difficult.

Good Luck.


Registered User
Nov 23, 2014
The pet question

My Mum already had an established and loving relationship with our dog before diagnosis,he was then a four year old Westie. Seeing her on the sofa, telling him how much she loved him was wonderful therapy. Several points apply I think: puppies and young dogs have specific needs apart from walkies. I would hate to be settling/training a puppy alongside a person with any deteriorating illness, who do you prioritise? I think a cat with a good temperament, as several TP's have suggested, would be just as suitable, if not more, and are far more low-maintenance. A good-tempered dog can be taken into a care home and our MrT was most welcome. Still think cats more suitable, and this is from a sworn dog-lover!