Nursing Homes That Allow Live-In Pets: How Does That Work?

Love cats? So do some nursing homes.
I’m Leigh Ann Otte, reporting for
It’s hard to move to a nursing home and leave a beloved pet. These days, you may not have to. Some nursing homes allow you to bring the pet. Some have community pets. But who takes care of them? And what about allergies?
I chatted with Helene King, a communications coordinator at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. They’re an Eden Alternative home. Their philosophy encourages having animals. Levindale has six cats that live there and two dogs that visit daily, plus birds and fish—with 192 beds. Residents may also bring their own pets that pass a temperament test—the same one visiting animals have to pass.
But who cares for the animals? The staff. They change litter boxes, walk dogs, feed fish. If a resident brought a pet, King said the staff would help care for it too.
What about allergies? In the eight years she’s worked at Levindale, King hasn’t heard of any issues. She said, “We have a very good ventilation system, and I actually am allergic to cats, and I’ve never had a problem.” Talk to the nursing home you’re looking at if you’re concerned.
What if you don’t like animals? They keep them out of those residents’ rooms, and the animals figure out who doesn’t like them.
They don’t have odor issues or safety problems. Everything seems good.
Many nursing homes still don’t allow pets, but those that do see benefits for both residents and staff, King said. “It just makes you smile when you walk around the corner and there’s a cat licking her paws or a dog is relaxing.”
I’m Leigh Ann Otte, reporting for, where you can search for and find reviews of nursing homes in Baltimore, Maryland, and nationwide.
Leigh Ann Otte is a freelance writer who covers finding and paying for senior care for OurParents.
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