Laura Dean Bennett
Through no fault of their own, many older animals in shelters find themselves waiting a long time for their forever homes.
As November is “National Adopt a Senior Pet Month,” it’s a good time for us all to be reminded that adult and senior dogs and cats may often be the best fit when we’re considering adoption.
As someone who has adopted several older dogs over the years, I can assure you that it is very rewarding.
For one thing, these animals know that you’ve rescued them, and they are truly grateful for the second chance.
Now, I love baby animals as much as anyone.
Playful kittens and scampering puppies are practically irresistible, so it’s no wonder that they are typically adopted before senior animals.
But it would be a mistake to overlook the benefits of adopting a senior pet – they are often the best fit for you and your family.
For one thing, they almost always sleep right through the night.
What age is considered “senior” in animals?
Most veterinarians and animal welfare organizations consider a dog or cat to be a senior starting at about five, six or seven.
Of course, a senior pet can have many years left ahead of them at that age.
When it comes to aging, a lot depends on the breed, size and health of the individual animal.
Dogs and cats age at different rates and different breeds of dogs can age differently.
So, even if an animal is a “senior,” they most probably have many good years ahead of them, and lots of love to share.
There are lots of reasons to adopt a senior pet.
They are usually less rambunctious and destructive than puppies or kittens.
They are likely to already know most of the rules of living in a house with humans.
They are often already housebroken, can more easily adapt to your home and are happy just to curl up in your lap or lay at your feet.
Dogs are pack animals.
An adult dog will usually have no trouble accepting a new pack leader (that’s you) and quickly integrate with a new pack.
It is true that some dogs adopted from a shelter may experience separation anxiety.
They might bark or show other stress-related behaviors when they are left alone.
These behaviors can be addressed through training and positive reinforcement to build the dog’s confidence.
By teaching the dog to trust you and to know that you will always come back to him or her, you will alleviate its worry of being left on its own.
Older pets can still have plenty of energy for play, but they tend not to need as much exercise as younger animals.
This makes them a more practical choice for elderly people and families with small children.
A nice walk and a little exercise in the morning and evening will probably be enough to keep your senior dog happy, healthy and content to nap most of the day.
Senior cats are more content just to be in your company, whereas younger cats and kittens are easily bored, which is when they get into trouble.
Another consideration is that most shelters and rescues will have observed the temperament of a dog or a cat prior to making it available for adoption.
They will have determined if an animal will work well with children and other pets at home, and they will have screened for aggressive tendencies.
Older pets already know who they are, so you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of how you’ll get along before even bringing them home.
An older pet can stay by itself for longer periods of time than a youngster.
Adult pets are fast learners.
Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog – or cat – new tricks never adopted an adult pet.
Animals, especially dogs, are experts at pleasing us.
Anything that you have the patience to teach them, they will be happy to learn.
They will try so hard to please you and give you so much unconditional love that you’ll soon find it hard to remember a time when they did not live with you.
For people who just aren’t in a position to adopt a pet, you can still do a lot for senior dogs and cats waiting to find a new home.
By making a donation to or volunteering at a shelter or with a rescue organization, you can help our furry senior citizens find their way to a new “leash on life.”
Laura Dean Bennett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org