At the MSPCA, we sometimes struggle with how to promote our older pets - especially our cats - when they are overshadowed by litters of cute kittens, puppies, and other young animals who showcase themselves well. Fortunately, we have many potential adopters who see mature pets as the best choice. While baby animals have their own appeal - yes, they are cute - and yes, you can probably help "shape" their personality and behavior to some degree - with a senior pet, "what you see is what you get." This is a huge relief to many adopters, who may be overwhelmed with the task of choosing the perfect companion from dozens (sometimes hundreds) of choices.
What else makes a senior pet a great choice?
- They aren't babies! This usually means they don't participate in destructive chewing or scratching, and they're less likely to have unpleasant attention-seeking behaviors (like jumping up).
- They're often already housetrained.
- Most senior pets are pretty mellow, and require less exercise than young pets (you probably won't have to walk a 9-year-old dog for 1/2 hour in the snow!).
- Senior dogs tend to have some training, and many know standard commands.
- With a senior pet, you know for sure what they like and don't like: kids, other animals, independence or constant contact - because they have real-life experience.
Of course, there are other considerations to make when adopting a senior pet. At the MSPCA, we usually hear two concerns that crop up time and time again regarding our pets of an advanced age. The first is the worry that a senior pet simply won't live as long as a younger pet; this concern is most often raised in regards to cats. This is probably true, but we believe it's worth giving a cat a great home even if it's for just 3 or 4 years instead of 9 or 10. Domestic cats can live as long as 18-20 years, while a 9-year-old at the MSPCA would be termed a "senior." In reality they're just middle-aged!
The other age-related concern is medical. For those who adopt pets in their golden years, there are expenses that can typically be waived, including training classes and that initial series of vaccines. But the trade-off is that senior pets do often require additional medical care, which can be costly. This may include dental cleanings, or even extractions - as well as additional bloodwork or other diagnostic testing. Just like with humans, prevention is the best medicine. An animal who is given plenty of appropriate exercise and a healthy diet will fare better in her senior years. With adoption, it's not always easy to tell just what kind of life a pet had before coming into our homes, but luckily it's never to late to start practicing a healthy lifestyle.
To learn more about caring for a senior pet, read these tips from Angell Animal Medical Center.