Skip to main content


Will I be able to keep my pet
when I move into a Retirement village/home?
A question asked by many 60-plussers

YEI looks at the benefits
of pet-friendly retirement villages/homes


It is estimated that South Africans own approximately 9 million dogs and cats.  It comes as no surprise that the majority of 60-plus pet owners would like to take their furry friends and companions with them when the time comes to move into a retirement property.  


Benefits of pets

Animal therapy was first recorded in 1792 at York Retreat in England. The retreat was put on by the Society of Friends and used animals to help treat people with mental illnesses.

Several other animal therapy sessions are recorded after this, but possibly one of the better-known therapy dogs was a tiny Yorkshire terrier called “Smoky”.  Smoky visited her wounded master, Cpl William Wynne at a military hospital in the Philippines in the aftermath of World War II.  Medical staff noticed that Smoky’s presence boosted the energy and lifted the spirits of the other wounded soldiers as well as the Corporal.  Smoky went on to be nicknamed “The Yorkie Doodle Dandy” and accompanied Dr Charles Mayo, the founder of the renown Mayo Clinic, on his rounds through the hospital.

Dogs are now trained to help the blind, the deaf and the physically disabled.  Dogs can detect when someone is about to have an epileptic fit.  They can alert you to a problem with a family member.  They sense when their owners are unwell and will stay by your side and “care” for you.  A Japanese study has shown that dog owners visit doctors 30% less often than non-dog owners.

Research has shown results where a purring cat can help a person in several ways.  The purring is medically therapeutic, and it can help lower stress and blood pressure.  Purring can ease suffering and anxiety, alleviate depression, loneliness and low morale.  The purring vibration has also been found to help infections and swellings. 

According to the Healthcare Occupational Therapist at Cle’ du Cap, a Retirement village in Cape Town, the benefits of animals are wide ranging and include

  •  Causes laughter & smiles – lifts spirits and mood
  • Decreases feelings of isolation
  • Encourages communication & socialisation
  • Decreases boredom
  • Improves recovery from ill-health
  • Decreases pain, causes release of calming endorphins

 In fact, they recently adopted two beautiful cats named Ginger and Precious, who have really settled into their forever home with all 47 of their new owners. They provide comfort and companionship to whoever they decide to snuggle with. And have seriously crept into the hearts of the entire facility. They often venture out into the Village and come and have very verbal conversations with the Office Staff. They have even been seen lounging around in the Village Clubhouse. – Two very happy kitties, and many happy 60-plussers!

More and more retirement homes are becoming pet-friendly and have instituted a pet friendly policy –  ‘pet guidelines’, which you will be required to acknowledge and sign before you move in.  It’s wise to ask for a copy of  the policy and to check it carefully before moving in, firstly to ensure that your “fur children” are allowed to accompany you to the retirement home/village, and secondly to acquaint yourself with the home/village’s requirements when it comes to their pet guidelines.


CLICK HERE TO READ MORE: Owning a pet can improve a senior’s quality of life


Are there restrictions as to what animals are allowed?

Most homes/villages have restrictions as to the size and what kind of pet is allowed in the village.  Restrictions include the amount of pets per household.  Some retirement villages/homes consider each case on its own merits.


 CLICK HERE TO READ MORE: Do dogs get doggie-dementia?


Will residents be able to get a new pet if their pet passes away?

Sadly, pets don’t live forever, and unfortunately, there will come a time when they pass away. Should this happen, what are the rules around getting a new companion? Is this something that is permitted? The answer to this differs from home to home – and again, it is an important question to ask before considering a Retirement home. 

What about non-pet owners?

Whether you have a pet or not, it’s important that the rights of both owners and non-pet-owners are protected so that everyone can happily co-exist.  Most Villages will be very cogniscent of the rights of all residents and will clearly state in their Pet policy how they will deal with the rights and needs of all residents.


CLICK HERE TO READ MORE: Frosty Face Foster Program – Cape Daschund Rescue


Sources: The Nest – Number of Dogs & Cats worldwide

Subscribe to YEI


  • Theo van Rooyen says:

    Most people agree with the benefits of keeping a pet animal but retirement facilities do not allow this practice.

    It would be wonderful if you could investigate further and publish a list of retirement homes / facilities that allows pets and nót only the expensive retirement villages.


    • Marilynh says:

      Good morning Theo

      Thank you for your comments. There are several retirement facilities that allow pets, the thinking is starting to change. A page where we will showcase retirement homes/facilities who allow pets is work in progress. We will publish this when it is ready.

      Thanks for your suggestion.

      Kind regards, The YEI Team

    • Eleonora Smith says:

      I agree Theo. Most retirement facilities don’t cater for pet owners. I love my two little furry ones and would never consider moving anywhere without them. I would rather move into a cottage or flat close to a medical facility! Eleonora

  • Muriel Luppnow says:

    Hi! About time this keeping pets when going into a retirement village or home is considered. I think as time goes by less and less people will be buying into these establishments if this subject is not seriously addressed. Also if the pet passes on a new pet should be allowed to replace it. I myself have 2 dogs and my own home . I am retired. I would consider buying nto a retirement village if my pets and future pets could accompany me.
    Muriel Luppnow.

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Muriel

      Thanks for your comments above. More and more retirement homes are becoming pet-friendly. This issue has been recognized by retirement villages over time. We are in the throes of compiling a directory of pet-friendly retirement villages – this will be published once ready.

      The YEI Team

      • Liesl Joubert says:


        I am not 60 yet, (57) but found this article, i would also love to get the list for cat friendly villages, my babies are 5 and 8 years old, they are my life, All my kids moved overseas. I would love to stay in a retirement village to have the social side of it and feel less loneley, but i am not accepted anywhere because of my cats.

        • Angela W says:

          Dear Liesl, we do not keep a list of cat friendly villages and you would have to approach them on a case by case basis. Kind regards, Angela

  • Jacs says:

    Our days of pet ownership have passed (by choice, as we wish to be more nomadic), but I would love to have communal pets – not just dogs and cats, available to spend time with.
    This could be facilitated by a small pet-levy to cover expenses, and possibly also a care duty roster for volunteers who are willing and able to help with feeding, grooming, cleaning bedding or fish tanks etc.

    One problem I have is yapping little dogs. It seems the smaller the dog, the more noise it makes. This would need to be sensitively addressed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.