Young pups and kittens often divert adopters from considering a senior pet. For this reason, November has become Adopt A Senior Pet Month. It’s a time to shed a spotlight on many of the pets that are sometimes overlooked in shelters because of their advanced age.
An older pet might be a better fit for a family, according to two animal shelters that serve West Niagara. The Bench News reached out to clear up three common misconceptions in an effort to encourage adopters to consider senior pets too.
Misconception #1: You will have less time with a senior pet
Pam Huson, founder of Beamsville 4Paw Rescue, said that many potential adopters overlook senior pets because they’re worried they’ll have less time to spend with it. “Adopter might not want a pet that they will have a shorter life with,” she said.
While this can happen, lifespan is not necessarily predictable and varies from pet to pet. There is an assumption that a puppy or kitten will live a long, happy life. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Lori Dudley, founder of Neveah’s Charity of West Lincoln Cat Rescue echoed the sentiment. “There’s no guarantee on life,” said Dudley. Both younger and senior pets can be susceptible to health issues and struggles. Age does not necessarily indicate how much time anyone has with a pet.
Additionally, even if a person has less time with a senior pet, that does not mean that time is less meaningful. Senior pets have as much love to give as younger ones.
A senior pet may also be more ideal for a senior owner or an owner that moves frequently. Senior pets typically do not come with a 10 to 20-year commitment, like puppies and kittens. A shorter time commitment may better suit some adopters.
Huson said senior pet adopters get to experience the satisfaction of knowing they helped save a life. “You may only have four or five years with that pet but…that pet is going to give you just as much or more love in that shorter time,” saids Huson.
Misconception #2: Senior pets are more expensive
Typically, older pets are cheaper than younger pets. However, many adopters have concerns about additional expenses as a pet age.
Healthcare costs are big concerns said Dudley but most adoption agencies have taken care of many of those expenses before the pet is put up for adoption. “What worries people…is the medical expenses, but we (shelters) have already dealt with their dental work and other present medical stuff…(adopters) don’t have that extra expense, ” said Dudley.
When shelters receive a pet, it is standard for the pet to undergo a medical assessment to determine any current or potential health problems or issues. These problems are often treated before the pet goes up for adoption, leaving only future medical expenses up to adopters. “Owners need to be willing and able to pay for future costs because there could be future health issues with senior pets or younger pets,” said Dudley.
Apart from medical costs, a senior pet could potentially cost an adopter a little more money if they need a specific diet or medications depending on current medical issues or complications. However, this information is disclosed beforehand, so that the adopter can determine if this costs are feasible upfront.
Misconception #3: Senior pets are high maintenance
A pet’s lifestyle may change slightly as they get older but that does not mean a senior pet is higher maintenance than a younger pet. In fact, it is often the opposite.
There is typically more predictability when it comes to adopting a senior pet because owner are aware of their size, temperament, behaviour, personality, and more. This eliminates much of the uncertainty that that comes when adopting youngers animals.
Most older pets are usually already trained. Adopters don’t have to worry about accidents or potty training or teaching a new pet not to tear apart household items.
Senior pets can also be less energetic than younger pets too. However, their calmer temperament may bring up challenges in certain households.
Dudley cautions adopters about the importance of matching their new pet to their lifestyle. “You don’t want a cat that lived in an old, quiet home and then all of the sudden bring it into a home with babies that are yelling and screaming,” said Dudley. The sound of screaming and crying children can cause panic in a senior pet as it’s a similar tone to the sounds cats and dogs make when they fight.
An older pet may not have tolerance for children that are are rowdy and rambunctious. “It’s not that your child isn’t good, it’s that you can’t control Mother Nature. Your kid is going to be a child and your pet is going to be an animal,” says Huson.
Things are changing for senior pets
Although, there may still be a preference for puppies and kittens, according to both Beamsville 4Paw Rescue and Neveah’s Charity of West Lincoln Cat Rescue, senior pets are having more luck getting adopted.
“I don’t think a lot of rescues have issues with senior pets because there’s always somebody looking for one,” says Dudley. “It may be harder sometimes than finding a home for a kitten but it is not usually hard overall,” says Huson.
As mentioned above, there are many benefits that contribute to the choice to adopt a senior pet – their cost, behaviour, and low maintenance are just a few. Although some personality traits, like an aging pet in a home with young children, may not be suited for certain homes, these same traits can make them more suitable for another home. A calmer, older pet may be better in a home with senior owners.
Another reason that senior pets can have appeal is people like to care for older animals.
“I think people relate more to older animals and are willing to give them the help they need because the special needs people and animals have are not that different. They have arthritis like your grandma, they have false teeth like your grandpa…it is easy to see similarities between them and seniors in your life,” said Huson.
A senior pet is surely as deserving of a good home as a younger pet, so next time you’re ready for a new pet, consider the older animals too. They can make wonderful pets.
Here are some senior pets at West Niagara shelters looking for forever homes:
Full adoptable pet bios can be found on each organization’s website: