One thing about pet ownership that many of us wish wasn’t so is the fact that pets as a rule tend to have much shorter lifespans than people-for cats and dogs, reaching the age of twenty is considered to be a very long life that most don’t reach, and for smaller pets like rats, mice and gerbils, they will rarely live past around five years old, and often, a lot less.
Whilst it sounds somewhat mercenary, knowing for sure that your pet of choice will only live for a finite amount of years is useful, because you can make plans for your life with the pet and know that afterwards, if the pet has restricted you from doing some of the things you might like to do, you can make longer-term plans for after the fact too.
Even when it comes to pets like dogs and cats, getting a kitten or puppy generally commits you for well over a decade but almost always less than two, which means that you can get such pets as you approach your own old age without having to worry about what might happen to your pet after your death.
However, the flipside of this is of course that you know that you will outlive your pet, mourn for them, and feel the gap left in your life when their presence has gone. This is of course a hard thing to come to terms with, and many of us know all too well that sometimes, you never properly get over the loss of a pet that you really loved, even decades later-ergo, most of us wish at least in the abstract that our beloved pets would live forever.
Whilst that might sound like wishful thinking, there are several different types of pets that live for several decades, and in some cases, over a century, meaning that they will potentially not only outlive you, but your own children as well.
We’ve covered what some of these animal are and how long they live for in this article-and in this piece, we will look at some of the important considerations that you should bear in mind if you decide that a very long-lived pet appeals to you.
All too many people that own pets that can live for a long time have inadvertently ended up with them because they misunderstood the pet’s lifespan, or were mis-sold the pet as another species that does not live as long.
This means that doing plenty of research before buying a pet of any type is important, and this is never truer than when you plan to buy a pet that may outlive you. Your research should of course cover not just the here are now, but the future too, in terms of the pet’s health and living situation.
Your new pet must of course be able to fit into your current living situation, in terms of providing the appropriate environment and meeting all of their needs. However, you should also remember that longer lived animals sometimes grow and mature very slowly, so if you get a long-lived pet like a Sulcata tortoise, that small pet will ultimately grow to the size of a large boulder!
Bear all of this in mind, and ensure that your home and living situation will be a good fit for the pet, not only now, but as they grow and change too.
If you own your own home and plan to remain in it for the rest of your life, this covers one of the most important elements of caring for a long-lived pet-but even if that is the case, things can change a lot in a couple of decades, and if you do end up moving, relocating, or going through a lot of changes at some unspecified point in the future, you will have to bear in mind what will happen then with your pet, which may be large (such as some species of parrot and tortoise) or need a very well planned out living environment, such as is the case with large Koi carp.
Ensuring that you can afford to care for a pet is vital, but when you’re talking about a pet that may potentially live for several decades, this requires a lot of thought. Even if you are comfortably off and financially stable, things can change-and so it is a good idea to begin to place some money in trust for your pet and top it up throughout their life, in order to ensure that you can take care of them even if things change.
When you begin to reach old age, the point will eventually come that you may have to think about whether your own age, mobility and health is affecting your ability to care for your pet properly, and decide what will happen then.
If you lost your mobility, suffered from dementia or had to be hospitalised or cared for, you would need to arrange for someone else to take care of your pet, possibly for the long term-and knowing who this person might be and getting them on board with it is something that you should be thinking about from the get-go.
In many cases, your own adult children will be the obvious choice-but don’t forget that you are then saddling them with a large commitment too, which not everyone really wants.
On the same note, there is of course a good chance that your pet will outlive you, and so, need to go to a new home after your death or when you are unable to care for them anymore. All too many long-lived pets end up languishing in pet shelters because there was no one willing or able to take them on after their owner’s death, and in order to prevent this, you will need to find someone who will take the pet before your death, mandate this in your will, and make provision in your will for the care of the pet in the future too.
Finally, part of what makes the idea of having a very long-lived pet very appealing for many people is the fact that they may well outlive you, saving you the grief and loss of having to say goodbye to them.
Don’t, however, lose sight of the fact that assuming that you die first, your pet will be left bereft too; while this is not an issue for some pets like fish, who do learn to recognise people but don’t mourn their loss per se, certain long-lived pets like some parrot species bond strongly with their owners, grieve, and do not do well after they have been left alone.
This is something else that is important to bear in mind too, and for species that do bond strongly with their owners, ensuring from an early stage that they get to meet other people and get to know the person who will take them on after your own death is vital, to make sure that your pet is loved, cared for and gets over their loss when you are gone.