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Pet-Friendly Assisted Living: Is It Possible?

You know you could use a little extra help at home, but you can’t imagine leaving your pets behind to move to assisted living. If you feel this way, you’re not alone: 82 percent of senior pet owners say they wouldn’t move to assisted living without their pet. But what if you don’t have to?

Pet-friendly assisted living isn’t the norm, but it is becoming more common. Read on to learn more.

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What Pets Do Assisted Living Communities Accept?

The most commonly allowed pets in assisted living communities are cats, small dogs, and caged pets like birds or fish. Unfortunately, seniors with medium- and large-breed dogs may have trouble finding a pet-friendly facility, as will seniors with commonly restricted breeds like pit bulls and rottweilers. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, however!

How to Get Into Pet-Friendly Assisted Living

In addition to researching assisted living facilities to learn about their pet policies, there are steps dog owners can take to improve their odds of being accepted.

Accepted? That’s right: Just because an assisted living facility allows pets doesn’t mean yours is guaranteed to get in. Here’s what assisted living facilities are looking for when they decide to accept a pet:

Good behavior

Dogs and cats running amok can be a serious fall hazard for seniors with mobility and vision issues. Senior living communities want pets that are calm and well-behaved. To demonstrate your pet’s good behavior, put together a pet resume including reference letters from veterinarians, pet sitters, and landlords as well as training certificates your pet has earned. Completing Canine Good Citizen training is a great way to show that your dog will be a good resident.

Good health

Communities are also looking for pets that are up-to-date on vaccinations, free of fleas and pests, and in good overall health. Many senior living residents have compromised immune systems and communities need to be cautious. Schedule a wellness visit, update your pet’s vaccinations, and make sure you’re current on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention before applying to assisted living.


While some assisted living communities offer pet care services for an extra fee, most want residents to be largely self-sufficient when it comes to caring for their pets. Make sure you’re prepared for the ongoing responsibilities of pet ownership before bringing your pet along.

How to Find the Best Pet-Friendly Senior Living

Now you know what senior living communities want from you. But what should you look for in pet-friendly assisted living?

The truth is, it’s not enough for assisted living facilities to call themselves pet-friendly. They also need to provide amenities that make life with pets easier on seniors. These are some amenities to look for as you shop for assisted living:

  • Garden apartments. For dog owners, you can’t beat the convenience of outdoor access from your own apartment!

  • Pet-friendly grounds. From walking trails to pet relief areas, it’s important to have a place where you and Fido can exercise safely.

  • Pet-friendly common spaces. Does your pet like to mingle? Not all pet-friendly communities allow pets in common areas indoors, so be sure to ask about pet policies if it’s important to you.

  • Pet care services. Even if you don’t need it now, you may need help caring for your pet in the future. Look for facilities that offer on-site pet care or that allow you to hire outside help so you can keep your pet as circumstances change.

While it’s important to consider your pet’s needs, don’t forget about your own! Assisted living needs to be a great place for you to live, too. Make sure the facility you choose offers an adequate level of care. Since it can be hard to get the full picture online, schedule tours of local assisted living communities to get more information. In person, you can see a community’s pet-friendly policies in action and find a place you’ll be happy to call home.

Request price lists so you understand what you’ll pay and how that may change over time. Then review your finances to determine how much you can afford to spend each month. If you don’t have long-term care insurance or sizable savings, you could finance your stay in assisted living by selling your home. You can use a home proceeds calculator to estimate how much you can earn from a sale.

Caring for Your Pet in Assisted Living

After a long search, you’ve found the perfect place for you and your pet. Now, you have to do the hard work of settling in!

Pets are a fantastic source of comfort during the transition to assisted living, but don’t forget that moving is stressful on pets, too. Get your pet accustomed to his carrier or crate before moving and set up a “safe zone” after arriving in your new apartment. Keep your normal routine as much as possible, but don’t worry if your dog or cat acts shy for a few days. Moving is a big change for pets, but before long, they’ll be confidently exploring their new home!

Once you’re settled in, the next challenge is keeping up with your pet’s daily needs. Mobility problems can make cleaning up after pets tough — not to mention time-consuming — so invest in tools that make cleanup easier. A robot vacuum is a clever way to keep floors clean between housekeeping, and some models do a surprisingly good job with pet hair and litter. You can also use automatic feeders and waterers, self-cleaning litter boxes and puppy pads, and other handy gadgets so you can spend your time bonding with your pet, not doing chores.

Cats are easy to exercise with handheld toys, but invest in a dog walker if your dog’s exercise needs are more than you can manage alone. Whether you use on-site pet care or hire through services like Wag! and Rover, a dog walker is money well-spent. Regular exercise helps your dog maintain a healthy weight and improves behavior.

Alternatives to Pet-Friendly Assisted Living

Unfortunately, bringing your pets to assisted living isn’t an option for everyone. However, there may be other ways to get the care you need while enjoying the companionship of pets.

Seniors who age in place can keep their pets and their homes. However, they may spend more on in-home caregiving than assisted living.

If you don’t have a pet but want one, pet therapy programs are a wonderful way to get your pet fix with fewer responsibilities. While dogs and cats are the most popular therapy animals in assisted living, you can find everything from guinea pigs to mini-horses!

You shouldn’t have to leave your pet behind just because you need a little extra help at home. Whether you’re ready for assisted living now or planning for the future, look for a senior living community where your pets are just as welcome as you are. It may require extra research on your end, but aging with pets by your side is worth the effort.


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