November is National Adopt a Senior Pet month, during which time the benefits of senior pet adoption are promoted by shelters, rescues and humane societies around the country. At Pets for Patriots, we focus on adult and other “at risk” shelter pets year-round because we know that while many people think they’re less adoptable, they often make the best companions.
So what makes a pet a senior? While there’s no absolute standard, many animal welfare organizations and veterinary specialists consider a dog or cat to be a senior citizen after five years of age; for others it’s seven and older. Species, breed, size and lifestyle are factors as well, since different types of pets age differently.
Dogs and cats two years and older are among those eligible through our honorable adoption program. Even at that age they’re overlooked in favor of puppies or kittens, and it’s part of our mission to champion their cause.
Regardless of how you define “senior,” there are many advantages to saving an adult pet:
- Knows the rules. Most older pets are surrendered by owners who could no longer keep them, often because they’re moving to a residence that doesn’t allow pets or as a result of financial hardship. While these pets might not know every trick in the book, they usually have their basic manners down pat.
- Less mess. Mature pets are typically housebroken, saving you from one of the more exasperating and unpleasant aspects of pet training.
- Walks the walk. A “pre-owned” dog is usually leash-trained, and most cats know their way around a litter box.
- One of the family. Dogs are pack animals and learn quickly how to integrate with their new pack (that’s you). Senior cats are more content to be in your company, whereas younger cats and kittens are easily bored – and that’s when they get themselves into trouble.
- Less destructive. It might be cute at first when a new puppy chews up your shoe, but it can be an expensive habit to break. Mature pets are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors, such as chewing, soiling, scratching and even excessive barking. However, some shelter pets – particularly dogs – experience separation anxiety; they might bark or show other stress-related behaviors when left alone. These behaviors can be addressed through training and positive reinforcement to build the pet’s confidence, making it less stressed when you leave the house.
- More “chill.” An older pet can still have a lot of energy, but they tend not to be as erratic in their physical behavior as younger animals. This makes them a more practical choice for the elderly and families with small children.
- WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Most shelters and rescues will have performed a basic temperament test of a dog or cat prior to making it available for adoption, to screen for aggression as well as to help make the best pet-person matches. Older pets already know who they are and have more stable personalities.
- Not a 24/7 job. A mature pet can be left alone, if needed, for longer periods of time than a puppy or kitten. In addition, they tend not to make the same demands of your attention as younger animals, and no longer need constant training and reinforcement. Of course, we’re confident that you’ll love your senior pet so much that you won’t want to leave its side.
- Fast learners. Who said you can’t teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks clearly never had an adult pet. Animals, especially dogs, are masters at pleasing their masters. They learn quickly because it’s to their benefit to do so.
- Forever grateful. Older pets somehow seem to know when they’re being saved from near certain death. They’re grateful for the second chance at life that you give when you adopt them.
Go ahead, Be A Pet’s HeroTM and give a second chance at life to a last-chance pet. And if you already have a four-legged senior citizen, tell us how it changed your life for the better!