Ryan Smith is part of the content development team at Compare Annuity, working with a carefully selected network of annuity specialists offering retirees free, no-obligation quotes and advice on annuities.

The benefits of owning a pet, particularly in retirement are undoubtable. Their companionship cannot be underestimated, and the additional health benefits can mean a longer, happier, healthier life.

There are however, a number of considerations you have to make when caring for a pet later in life. You need to ensure that a reduced retirement income will allow you to continue the cost of their upkeep; if your mobility starts to become reduced or restricted, or you move into a residential care home, you need to know the options available to your pet; and has provision been made for what happens to your animal once you pass away?

The cost of keeping a pet

Over the course of an average pet’s lifetime, through a combination of food, vet’s bills and other necessities, the total cost of owning a cat or dog can fall at around £17, 000. This averages out at around £1, 100 per year for a cat and £1, 200 per year for a dog.

While there are pension freedoms coming into effect from 6 April 2015, allowing more flexible pension savings access via income drawdown, the relative annuity rate for the average UK pension fund is still only valued at £2, 250 a year (for a 65 year old, single man), leaving around £1, 000 a year after your pet’s costs (you can find your own annuity rate using a free annuity calculator).

Remember that costs of keeping a pet are likely to increase year on year, with some predicting the increase could be as much as 20 per cent every 12 months.

Options for your pet

While pets are actively proven to be good for health, with reduced stress levels, increased physical activity and even going as far as to improve your general mental wellbeing, it’s an unfortunate inevitability that as we grow older, our bodies become less agile and we become increasingly less mobile. This can make it difficult to look after our pets in the best possible way. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure your pet gets the best quality of life.

Pet food, particularly the larger bags can be extremely heavy, but with online shopping and home delivery, you can get your dog’s dinner at the click of a button, and often you’ll even save money too.

There will also likely be a number of people local to you willing to walk your dog, possibly for a small fee. Again, a quick search online can usually find someone close by.

If you are moving into a residential care home, more and more establishments are allowing you to take your animals with you. Sarah Burgess works at Retirement Villages, which has 11 developments around the UK, and understands how vital the companionship of a resident’s pet can be: “At our villages, there are cats and dogs kept by residents, plus canaries, budgies, mice and hamsters. Dogs provide a wonderful ice breaker when people move in – everyone stops to pat a dog.”

Rehoming your pet

Unfortunately, for numerous reasons not all retirees will be able to keep their pets. Luckily, there a number of fantastic animal charities that will be able to rehome your pet with a new loving family. You can get in touch with the RSPCA or the Blue Cross about rehoming your four-legged friend, or there will likely be a local animal shelter that will be able to find them somewhere new to live.

There are even a new wave of care homes opening up around the world for elderly pets, including a retirement home for dogs in Japan, and a home for “Old Aged Pussycats” in Lincolnshire.

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Making provisions for your pet

It isn’t pleasant to think about but just like making financial preparations for when we die, it is essential that provision is made for your pets too. If you do not make provision for your pets in your will, you run the risk that they will be left unwanted, uncared for or even homeless.

One thing that’s important to remember is to not simply include in your will that a friend of family member should take your pet home with them in the event of your death. While this is likely the route that your pet will end up taking, you must have those conversations with the friend or family member in question before committing it to your will. If they are left to take care of your pet unexpectedly, they may not be physically and financially able to take on the responsibility, and your pet could end up elsewhere. It’s also common courtesy to include a small financial donation to this friend if you can afford it, in order to help them with your pet’s upkeep.

You are also able to specify in your will whether you want an animal charity to take your animal for re-housing. Again, it is worth reading more about RSPCA’s ‘Home for Life’ scheme or the Blue Cross’ ‘Pets into Care’ initiative, or contacting your local animal charity.

Despite the thought and preparation that must go into looking after a pet in retirement, they can be an essential part of living a healthy life in your later years. Their companionship can fill a void that retirement can often leave in your life, so if you are looking to speak to somebody it is worth paying a visit to your local animal shelter, or contacting one of the many animal charities in the UK. They will be able to provide you with all the information you need about caring for a new pet, bringing you and your new friend one step closer together.