November is “National Adopt a Senior Pet Month,” dedicated to helping older pets find loving forever homes. There are countless things that get better with age, and a furry companion is one of them.
It varies, but cats and dogs are generally considered “senior” at seven years old. Larger-breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and can be considered seniors at 5 or 6 years, while cats and smaller-breed dogs live considerably longer and can be considered seniors at 10–12 years. And, contrary to popular belief, dogs do not age at a rate of 7 human years for each year in dog years.
Older Pets Are Not Damaged Goods
Senior dogs and cats lose their homes for a variety of reasons, usually having nothing to do with their behavior or temperament but more likely due to their previous owners being unable to keep them for various reasons. It is a sad fact that senior pets generally spend the longest amount of time at a shelter before finding their forever homes, and that’s if they ever find one at all. However, just like younger pets, they make loyal and loving companions. Plus, there are many benefits to adopting a senior dog or cat.
You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
When a family decides to bring a new dog or cat into the household, the first option for many is a puppy or kitten—after all, they are adorable. However, they can be a lot more rambunctious, mischievous, destructive, and challenging than expected, and they require constant monitoring. People often underestimate the time and patience required for training them from scratch.
Older pets already have a lot of experience under their belts, so to speak. They may already be well mannered, may know some basic commands, and might already be litter box- or house-trained. In addition, older pets have more focus and a longer attention span than puppies or kittens do, which makes further training and adapting to their new home easier.
Calm, Cool, and Collected
Senior pets are typically quieter, calmer, and less demanding than puppies and kittens. They make great companions for those who don’t have the time or energy to spend running around non-stop. Because of their relaxing lifestyle, seniors don’t require the constant attention that comes with young pets.
Older pets have had a chance to mellow and are content with a more relaxing day-to-day routine, just lounging in their favorite spot on the couch and being around their favorite people. Of course, they still love to play but just don’t require as much time and energy.
Some sort of daily physical activity is an important part of an older pet's health. Regular exercise helps maintain a senior’s joints, ligaments, and muscles, improve blood flow, and reduce pain and/or inflammation. It helps limit undesirable behavior that comes from under-stimulation, boosts their mood, and improves overall quality of life. They just don't need quite as much exercise as younger pets do.
Although they may develop age-related problems, pets are living longer now, and good care will allow them to live happy, healthy, and active lives in their senior years.
Great for Any Age or Experience Level
Senior pets’ more relaxed temperaments make them excellent companions for everybody but especially for certain people:
What You See Is What You Get
There can be a lot of uncertainty in adopting a puppy or kitten. Since senior pets are fully grown, you know exactly what you’re getting. Senior pets’ personalities, temperaments, and energy levels are already developed, and their size, grooming requirements, and health status are already established, so you know exactly what to expect. This way you can make an informed decision as to whether or not the pet is a good match for you, your lifestyle, and your wallet.
Lifelong Love and Gratitude
Some senior pets may have had a rocky past. Pets may have been uprooted from their homes, were stray for a while, perhaps had an abusive previous owner, or maybe they were just ignored by a family that didn’t have time for them. Senior pets may bear a few scars—both physical and emotional—but they are experts at forgiving, forgetting, and living in the present.
When you open your heart and your home to an older shelter dog or cat, you are saving them from an uncertain future and showing them that they are worthy of love and comfort during their twilight years. And they do seem to know they have been given a second chance. They view their new humans as heroes and show their appreciation for the rest of their lives. When you adopt a senior, you give an extraordinary gift, and in return, you'll be loved unconditionally.
Many new owners form a close bond very quickly with their senior dog or cat, because the pet shows them exceptional attention, affection, and loyalty. Once they are adopted, they want nothing more than to please; they just want to love and be loved in return. And in most cases, people who adopt older animals feel a special sense of pride and purpose in helping a hard-to-place pet. Good deeds really do make you feel good!
If you’ve been thinking about adding a four-legged friend to your family, don’t discount an older dog or cat in need. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make.
If you can’t adopt a new best friend right now, please visit the shelter and spend a little time with some sweet senior animals, or at least help spread the word about how great they are.