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Care homes pet policies

Blue Cross is calling on all elderly care homes to have a clear pet policy in place, after our research found that 40 per cent of UK care homes claim to be ‘pet friendly’ but, in practice, this often isn’t clear or consistent.

Two thirds of UK older pet owners said they would be ‘devastated’ if they had to give up their pet to go into care.

Our findings reveal that not all ‘pet friendly’ care homes allow a resident to have a pet but instead may mean pets are allowed to visit, the care home has a resident pet, staff bring their pets to work or that a home contains a fish tank. With a quarter of older pet owners describing their pet as ‘family’, we are calling for a more transparent, consistent and clear approach to help pet owners make this life-changing decision.

Marion Davies with cat Blackie
Marion Davies, 82, lives with her cat four-year-old Blackie at Thameside care home in Surrey

While we understand it isn’t appropriate in all cases for pets to live with their owners in care or retirement housing, we do recommend that care homes have clear criteria on where they stand regarding residents keeping their pets and the responsibility of residents living with their pet in the home. We have produced a checklist to help care homes to create a simple, easy to understand pet policy.

I love Blackie to bits. She sleeps on my bed at night and comes into the day room with me sometimes. She is a member of my family. Marion Davies, 82

Download our checklist for care and residential homes when creating a pet policy below now.


There are many benefits to older people having pets in their lives. As well as companionship, pets give older people a routine and a sense of purpose. Older pet owners are also more likely to take exercise to walk or play with their pets and pets also relieve stress and increase endorphins through stroking.

Giving up a pet is a life-changing decision that can have deep, traumatic consequences.

Our Pet Bereavement Support Service receives calls from elderly owners who suffer grief when they are forced to part from their pets.

Diane James from the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service said: “Calls from older people forced to give up their pet because they are going into a care home are heartbreaking. Not only are pets an important companion in older people’s lives, they may also be the last link to a deceased spouse or happy memory. At an already difficult time for many older people, losing their pet can be seriously traumatic for them.”


Ask your MP to help ensure all care homes have a pet policy

Why not write to your local MP and ask them to raise your concerns about pet policies in care homes with David Mowat MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of state for Community Health and Care?

— Page last updated 6/01/2017