Downsizing can be a pet’s paradise if you know what to look for

Pets play an important role in the lives of many Australians. And when an industry body such as the Association of Super Funds of Australia[1] (ASFA) starts researching the impact of pets on retirees, it’s clear our love of pets spans every generation.

ASFA crunched the numbers to determine the costs of owning a companion animal. The family pooch comes with an average annual upkeep bill of around $1,725 while moggies will eat a $1,280 chunk out of your annual budget. Fish are the lowest cost pet notching up an annual food bill of just $60 but they don’t offer the same level of companionship, and they’re certainly not going to entertain the grandkids for long with a repertoire of tricks.

Pets bring benefits as we age

For animal lovers the costs are more than outweighed by the joys of pet ownership, and an ageing family dog or cat will often delay a planned downsize, and is definitely a major consideration in any plans to move house. As ASFA CEO Dr Martin Fahy, notes, “Many people would find it difficult to contemplate ditching the dog at retirement.” And there are good reasons to own a pet – especially as we age.

A Swedish study[2] for instance found dog owners are likely to have reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and enjoy longer life expectancy.

However, the challenge for downsizers has often been finding a pet-friendly retirement property.  While more and more traditional retirement villages and over 50's lifestyle villages are now allowing pets, it's further good news that changes to the law are also making it a lot easier to own pets in strata properties such as apartments, townhouses and villas.

New laws permit pets in apartments

In NSW for instance, new model by-laws were introduced in 2016 that offer a more relaxed approach to keeping pets in a strata property.  If an owners corporation has embraced the new by-laws, residents still need to ask permission to keep a pet but the request cannot be unreasonably refused.

It’s a real plus for downsizers moving to an apartment. Pets don’t just offer companionship. Dogs in particular, can also be a great exercise buddy, helping downsizers stay fit and active while also providing security and protection.

Match your pet to your downsized home

Of course, sharing an apartment with a dog or cat calls for some careful consideration. Certain breeds are better suited to apartment living than others, and nuisance behaviour such as barking can be a cause of real angst between residents.  It’s also worth considering how your pet fits in with any plans for travel.

The bottom line is that downsizing to an apartment with a pet is possible. Do check that this is something the owners corporation will permit, and be sure your choice of pet is the perfect match for your new downsized home.


Greg Oddy is Director of Sales and Marketing for and Seniors Housing Online.