by Jenny Smiechowski –
If you’re thinking about adopting a new pet, you’ve probably spent hours searching for the perfect furry family member…
You’ve visited animal shelters. You’ve scoured Petfinder.com. And you’ve seen so many adorable kittens and puppies that it’s hard to decide which one to bring home.
But before you bring home an adorable and exhausting youngster, consider opening your eyes (and heart) to a group of pets that people often overlook in their adoption search—seniors.
Sure, puppies and kittens are super cute. But there’s just something special about seniors. And if you look beyond the graying muzzle, you’ll see for yourself the amazing qualities that make them stand out from the pack.
So next time you step into an animal shelter in search of the perfect pet, don’t get caught up in the outrageous antics of the frisky youngsters while the seniors sit quietly in the corners of their cages. Remember these seven benefits of opening your heart and home to an older animal:
You’re saving a life
In my book, the number one reason to adopt a senior pet is that you’re saving a life. Senior pets are the hardest for shelters to re-home (1). If these seniors aren’t adopted, they either get euthanized or end up living out their remaining years in a cage. So if you adopt a senior pet, you’re saving her life either literally (by preventing her from being euthanized) or figuratively (by allowing her to enjoy the rest of her life in a happy home).
You know what you’re getting
With kittens and puppies, there are a lot of surprises. That cute mixed-breed puppy you bring home may grow into a 100-pound dog because his great-granddaddy was a Bullmastiff. Or that sweet hound mix puppy may have an aggressive streak that doesn’t show up until adolescence. The point us, puppies and kittens still have a lot of growing to do before their temperaments and physical features fully emerge. And if you think adopting an animal as a baby gives you a clean slate to work with from a personality perspective, think again. Genetics play a large role in the personality of your pet (2). That means, if you adopt a puppy or kitten, you may end up with a pet that’s not the best fit for your home or your lifestyle. Older pets, on the other hand, have well-established temperaments that are easy for shelter staff to gauge with a few simple tests. They’ve also grown to their full size so you won’t adopt a pet that’s bigger (or smaller) than you can handle.
You CAN teach an old pet new tricks
The biggest misconception about older pets is that they’re stuck in their ways and unable to learn anything new. But this is far from true. Sure, older pets have established temperaments and long-held habits. But they’re still highly trainable. Teaching older pets something new is much easier than helping them unlearn an old behavior. But both are possible (3). When it comes to training a senior pet, just remember that learning may take longer than it does for youngsters (3). You also have to take into account any physical disabilities an older pet may have, like stiff joints (3). Teaching an older pet that’s arthritic to sit, for example, may not be worth the discomfort it causes.
Senior pets are already potty-trained
If you haven’t had a puppy in a while—or you’ve never had one—you might not realize how hard they are to potty-train. It takes an average of four to six months to potty-train a dog, and some puppies can take up to a year (4). Unfortunately, this potty-training period is hard on your floors and carpets, and a pain in the butt for you. But senior dogs are already potty-trained, which means less work and less mess.
Senior pets are more mellow companions.
Puppies and kittens are like kids. They’re cute and fun, but they have a ton of energy and require almost constant supervision. Senior pets, however, are mellow companions. They’re just as happy going for a walk as they are snuggling up on the couch. They also do better home alone than younger pets. You can go out for breakfast, run errands, meet a friend for coffee and your older pet will likely sleep, while a younger pet might get into mischief.
Senior pets are super appreciative.
Senior pets have been around the block. They’ve had other owners (maybe good, maybe bad). They’ve lived in a shelter (a stressful experience for any pet). They’ve seen their share of struggles, which is why they’re so grateful when you give them a good home, tasty food and lots of love. It’s amazing how even the most downtrodden pets come alive in a caring home. And for you, it’s super rewarding to know that you can make the remainder of their life the absolute best it can be.
Senior pets put life in perspective.
When you adopt a senior pet, you know your time with her will be short. But rather than feel sad about this, you can use your pet’s age as a reminder to enjoy every moment you have with her. The truth is, life is short and unpredictable for us all. You only have a limited amount of time with all the people and pets you love, so never take them for granted. Having senior pets around puts that in perspective and reminds you to enjoy each moment with your loved ones.
- Hageman, William. “Making the case for adopting an older pet.” Chicago Tribune. 12 Sept. 2014. Web 8 Jan. 2017. <http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-fam-0909-old-pet-adoption-20140912-story.html;.
- Coren, Stanley PhD., DSc, FRSC. “Does Genetics Determine a Dog’s Personality?” Psychology Today. 17 Apr. 2013. Web 8 Jan. 2017. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201304/does-genetics-determine-dogs-personality;.
- Miller, Pat CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA. “Training An Older Dog.” Whole Dog Journal. 12 Oct. 2017. Web 8 Jan. 2017. <https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/10_12/features/Training-Older-Dogs_15990-1.html;.
- “House Training Your Puppy.” WebMD. N.D. Web 8 Jan. 2017. <https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/house-training-your-puppy#1;.