Friday, November 12, 2010
I think it’s great that the ASPCA and Petfinder.com celebrate November as Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. So many older animals languish in shelters because potential adopters are typically more interested in a younger pet. I completely understand the allure of those cute kittens and puppies, but I still feel sad for all those older dogs and cats that would make wonderful family pets if given the chance.
Many people erroneously assume that the adult dogs and cats in shelters are there because of problem behavior or some other fault. The truth is, the majority of adult pets in shelters are not “bad” – they were given up by people who can’t care for them anymore or simply don’t want to, for various reasons. Unfortunately, if they are already “senior” age, their chances of being adopted are slim. What you may not realize, however, is that older pets can be a better choice than puppies and kittens, for many reasons.
Senior Pets are Not a Full-Time Job
Raising a kitten or puppy is hard work, and very time consuming. First time pet owners often have no idea what they’re getting themselves into with a kitten or puppy. These curious and energetic little beings view your home as their personal playground. Like human babies, kittens and puppies must be watched constantly, both to keep them safe and to minimize the accidental damage to your belongings. When you adopt a senior pet, you don’t have to deal with puppy potty breaks in the middle of the night, or need to clean up after a kitten that’s still learning good litter box habits. With senior pets, you can leave the house for a few hours and be reasonably certain it won’t be destroyed when you return.
What You See is What You Get
When you adopt a senior pet, you’ll know from the start what their personality is like and what they require in terms of grooming. Older pets are also better for households with children, because you’ll know if the animal’s temperament can tolerate a noisy environment. When you adopt a senior dog instead of a puppy, you will already know their full grown size – which means you won’t be surprised later when your wee pup grows up to become a much bigger dog than you anticipated. Knowing all of these things from the start can make it easier to pick the right animal for you and your family.
Senior Pets are More Laid Back
Older dogs and cats are much calmer than their younger counterparts. They don’t bounce off the walls or tear around the house like they’re training for a marathon. Your warm lap or that comfy spot on the couch is much more appealing to a senior pet. A rambunctious puppy or younger adult dog can run you ragged with their seemingly endless reservoir of energy and need for speed. Senior dogs still need to get daily exercise, of course, but they’ll enjoy a nice slow ramble around the block with you instead of a five-mile run or two hours at the dog park. Many senior cats still enjoy playtime, but they’re a lot more relaxed than mischief -making kittens and young cats. If your free time is limited and you’re more “couch potato” than “go getter,” then a senior pet is a better fit for your lifestyle.
Senior Pets are Easier to Train
Contrary to that old saying, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Old cats can learn tricks too! In fact, senior pets can be easier to train and learn faster because they’re calmer, not as easily distracted and thus, are better able to focus on you and what you’re trying to teach them.
Saving a Life Feels Good
The puppies and kittens at your local shelter find their forever homes quickly, sometimes in a few short hours or days of being put up for adoption. The senior dogs and cats aren’t so lucky. It’s true that a senior pet’s time with you will likely be much too short, yet the indelible mark they leave upon your heart is no less poignant. I think the feeling of knowing you gave a senior pet the precious gift of a loving home is priceless. The quality of the time you spend with an animal matters so much more than quantity anyway. Cherish every single day with a senior pet, and when it comes time for them to cross the Rainbow Bridge, you will be forever grateful for their love.
Read more articles by Julia Williams