Trend Watch: Retirement Homes for Pets

Photo courtesy of the Stevenson Center, College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University
Canine and feline retirees at the Stevenson Center.

On any given day at the Stevenson retirement home, residents may be hanging out in the living room, ambling through the kitchen in search of a snack, exercising in the yard or getting a medical checkup. But these residents aren’t people — they’re cats and dogs.

The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, based at Texas A&M University’s veterinary school, is just one example of a new trend in companion animal care — pet retirement homes.

These centers provide perpetual care for pets who either outlive their owners or whose elderly keepers are no longer able to tend to them.

Unlike shelters that try to get animals adopted, these sanctuaries offer both a communal home and medical care for the rest of the pets’ lives.

Why There's Such Demand Now

Susan Hamil, the chairman of the board of directors for the Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, a feline retirement facility in Laguna Beach, Calif., believes that deepening affection for pets prompts better planning for end-of-life care.

“Pets are considered members of the family more than they ever were before,” she says. “The question of ‘what would happen if something happened to me?’ now extends to ‘what would happen to my cat?’ ”

For instance, a pet owner may need to move into an assisted living facility that doesn't accept animals. Or the owner may not have family or friends who could take in the pet.

And that’s where a pet retirement home comes in.

Owners pay an enrollment fee to guarantee their pets’ placement and then usually set up an endowment to cover future costs. And many centers report a rising number of registered pets.

Sharon Worrell of the Cohn Family Shelter at Oklahoma State University’s veterinary school points to the baby boomer generation for this trend. As these pet owners age, and their companion animals enjoy longer life spans, they become more concerned about their pets’ future care, as well as their own.

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