Pets offer humans big benefits as we age – friendship, exercise, and the delight that comes from caring for another living thing. As a matter of fact, African Americans are an influential and growing segment among owners of dogs, cats, and other pets.

Of course, the kinds of lizards and snakes you brought home as a kid probably aren’t ideal now, and you may not have the energy to keep up with a border collie or Jack Russell terrier. What are some good options for mellow pets? Pet and aging experts recommend the following companion critters.

Companion cats

Seeking a friend who doesn’t need a daily walk or constant attention? Consider a cat. Cats can do well indoors and they don’t bark, making it easy to keep the peace with neighbors. Daily playtime is a must — simply dangling a toy or a feather on a string can entertain your cat (and you) while keeping his “predator” skills sharp. Recommended breeds include the Persian, British Shorthair, and Ragdoll.

Devoted dogs

Dogs are great for people who enjoy daily walks, playtime and training sessions. Poodles, corgis, French bulldogs, Yorkshire terriers and Scottish terriers are examples of good breeds for seniors, but ultimately the choice depends on your connection with a particular dog. That said, people who’ve always had big dogs may want to choose a mid-sized breed that can comfortably relax in your lap. Teacup pup aficionados may want to scale up to a slightly bigger breed to reduce the risk of tripping over an unseen pet.

Relaxing (and rambunctious) rabbits

Rabbits don’t bark, prefer to use a litter box, and (usually) enjoy a good snuggle. Like cats, rabbits can thrive indoors with daily exercise and playtime, although outside exercise time in a protected area is ideal. Some rabbits act like cats and want attention only on their terms; others, especially long-haired angora rabbits, are content to hop into your lap and watch TV with you while you brush their coat.

Beautiful birds

Parakeets are a colorful option for people who enjoy a little song and dance in their day, and they do well in pairs. These miniature parrots are excellent fliers, which can be delightful if you don’t mind them perching on your ceiling fan. If you prefer to keep them out of the rafters, have their flight feathers trimmed and provide a large cage. Compared to full-size parrots, parakeets are quieter, easier to clean up after, less prone to bite, and have shorter lifespans of about 7-10 years (as opposed to 50-70 for a grey parrot).

Fabulous fish

A small freshwater aquarium is easy to set up, and with a good filter and the right water chemistry balance it’s easy to maintain as well. Fish are the ultimate easy-care pet, and their colors and movement are calming to watch. Deck out your tank with hiding places and faux plants to create interest for your fish, and choose compatible species so you’ll have a peaceful underwater kingdom. Daily feeding, weekly water testing, and monthly gravel vacuuming are the main responsibilities of fish owners.

Consider a senior pet, too

Older adults are almost always better off with a pet that’s past the baby stage. Puppies, kittens, rabbit kits, and hatchling birds all have intense care needs and can be energetic enough to exhaust even the fittest caretaker. Many shelters offer older pets for adoption at a discount, which means you’ll have more money for pet food and toys. Treat yourself to a pet that’s older and calmer and the two of you can enjoy life together at a relaxing pace.





Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer.