By Dr. Karen Becker
Recently I discussed the problem of hard-to-adopt shelter pets. At the top of the list of dogs and cats languishing in shelters across the U.S. are older animals.
It makes me terribly sad to know these poor animals are frightened, disoriented, and waiting anxiously in their kennels for their families to come back and collect them. And it’s sadder still to know many of these pets will never leave the shelter… unless more adoptive families are willing to give them a second look.
1. Older Dogs Have Manners
Unlike puppies, many grown-up dogs have spent years living with a family and are socialized to life with humans. They may have received obedience training and respond to commands like sit, stay, and down. Many are house trained, and it takes a matter of hours or a day or two to help them learn the potty rules in their new home.
2. Senior Pets Are Less Destructive
Most older adoptive pets are well past the search-and-destroy phase. You don’t need to worry so much about finding your favorite pair of shoes or a table leg chewed beyond recognition. Chances are your senior kitty has no urge to overturn your potted plant or shred the handmade quilt your grandma gave you.
3. What You See Is What You Get
A senior pet holds no surprises as to how big he might get, what color his adult coat will be, or whether his hips will be healthy. A senior pet comes to you with his own history, which makes his future much more predictable than that of an 8-week-old puppy or kitten.
4. You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks
Adult dogs can focus on the task at hand (unlike many of their much younger counterparts). If your adopted older pet needs to learn a few things in her new life with you, not to worry. Enroll her in an obedience class, contact a trainer, or go the do-it-yourself route. Older dogs are more attentive than puppies and more eager to please their humans.
5. You Can Custom Order Your Senior Pet
If you’re looking for a short-haired cat, for example, or a kitty with no history of dental disease, you can search until you find an older pet with exactly those attributes. If you already have a cat and need your adoptive dog to get along with cats, again, you’ll have a much better chance of finding an older adoptive dog who is a perfect companion for your family.
6. You Can Adopt A Purebred Pet If You Want
If you really love a certain breed of dog or cat, chances are there’s a breed rescue club that can point you in the direction of older purebred pets in need of homes.
7. Senior Pets Are Great Company For Senior Citizens
Many elderly people find the calm presence of an older pet very comforting. They appreciate having a companion who is also “getting up there” in age, doesn’t mind hearing the same stories again and again, and is content to move through life at a slower speed.
8. Older Pets Are Relaxing To Hang Out With
Senior dogs and cats have all the basics down and aren’t full of wild energy to burn. Because you’re not constantly chasing around or cleaning up after your older pet, you have a lot more time to spend finding fun things to do or just relaxing together.
9. Adopted Senior Pets Are Grateful For Your Kindness
Somehow, older pets seem to know you gave them a home when no one else would. Many new owners form a close bond very quickly with their senior dog or cat, because the pet shows them a level of attention and devotion that is unique to older adopted animals.
10. You Can Be A Hero To A Deserving Dog Or Cat
Almost without exception, people who adopt older animals feel a special sense of pride and purpose in opening their heart to a hard-to-place pet. Doing a good thing really does make you feel good!
Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian.