Wednesday, November 18, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
Petfinder.com is a virtual, searchable database of adoptable animals, shelters and adoption organizations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Petfinder.com has designated November as “Adopt a Senior Pet Month,” which I think is a wonderful idea. Many senior pets end up in shelters every year, often because their human passes away without making arrangements for them. I have adopted several older pets, so I know firsthand that there are many advantages to choosing a senior citizen pet over a younger one.
The very first cat my ex-husband and I ever adopted came from a shelter, and was an older cat. We walked into the cat room, and as I passed a cage this paw shot out and tapped me on the arm. I turned, looked into eyes green as grass, saw a hair coat that looked black but glistened chocolate brown in the bright sunshine, and was lost. My husband was not smitten; he wanted a kitten.
If you are undecided about getting a pet, an older animal is a good way to go. I knew that older pets in shelters are adopted last; I didn’t know they are also usually the first to be euthanized. By adopting an older pet you are saving a life and should give yourself a pat on the back. You’ll still have food bills and regular vet visits, but because of their age they will not be with you as long as a puppy or kitten would. If you are looking for a certain kind of dog or cat, you would be able to try out the breed without a long-term commitment.
An older pet will already be spayed or neutered; most shelters will not adopt out a pet that isn’t. There will be no puppy or kitten shots to get, no teething or chewing on inappropriate things (such as shoes or electric cords), and no kitten climbing your curtains or unfurling the toilet paper roll. You won’t have to deal with puppy potty breaks at two in the morning in the rain or snow, or clean up after a kitten still learning how to use the litter box. The majority of older pets have already been housebroken, already have their permanent teeth and usually have basic obedience skills. And older dogs will settle into your routine quickly and without much fuss because they’ve been a pack member and understand the hierarchy.
When you adopt a senior pet you get to see their personality when you meet them, and not have to wait for it to develop. You’ll be able to see if they are laid back or highly active. You’ll find that senior citizen dogs will like chilling out more than younger dogs. While older dogs still need some exercise and do enjoy it, you won’t have to walk them five miles every day, as you would a young Labrador or Golden Retriever. You will know pretty quickly what kind of shedding, brushing and grooming you are going to have with senior pets. You won’t get any surprises about their size either, since they are finished growing.
If you have to be away from home for several hours, you don’t have to go rushing home to let them out to go potty or exercise, as you would with a puppy. An older dog or cat will greet you warmly when you get home and not be bouncing off the walls. Because of their age, older pets are calmer. If you wanted to enroll in open obedience classes, or teach your older dog some of those tricks you’ve seen other dogs learn, go for it. Their age and sereneness will give you an edge on training; their attention span is longer than a puppy’s, and they will be able to learn faster.
Remember that green-eyed black cat? His name was Keentya, and he ended up in the shelter because his owner had passed away without making provisions for him in her will. After some begging on my part, and a discussion that outlined many of the points above, we went home with this beautiful older cat. He latched onto our hearts and never let go. Keentya was great in the car and traveled to Pennsylvania with us for holidays for several years before his passing. He became such a member of our family that one relative even made him his own pillow and embroidered pillow case with his name on it.
While none of my older adopted pets’ time with me was long enough, given the chance I would adopt a senior pet again in an instant. The benefits far outweigh the shortness of time they spent with me, and the blessings they gave me were many.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently