Many people walk into a shelter or scour a rescue’s website hoping to adopt a new puppy or kitten, completely overlooking the perfectly adoptable older dogs and cats in kennels and cages in their search.
But this National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, which runs through the end of November, shelters and rescues across the country are hoping those looking to adopt a new furry friend will consider adding a senior pet to the family.
According to a Petfinder.com survey conducted for September’s Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week, the absolute most difficult group of homeless pets to place are older dogs and cats. Senior pets tend to spend the longest amount of time at a shelter or rescue before finding their forever home — if they find one at all, that is. Older canines and felines of advanced age have higher euthanasia rates than their younger counterparts, and can often live the rest of their lives out in a shelter kennel.
Facts like these make National Adopt a Senior Pet Month so important.
“People need to consider senior pets,” Lysa Boston, Shelter Manager at the Joplin Humane Society in Joplin, Missouri, tells KOAM-TV. “Young animals need lots of patience, energy, and consistent training to help them become well-adjusted family pets.”
There are plenty of benefits to selecting an older pet over a younger one. Because senior pets are typically calmer and less energetic than puppies and kittens, it is easier to teach them new tricks. In fact, many senior pets are already pros at performing basic commands. Their low-key natures can also make them ideal for households with children.
What some adopters of younger pets are unprepared for is what hard work it can be to housetrain a new puppy or kitten. You have to spend copious amounts of time training a new puppy to do his business outdoors or teach a kitten to remember where the litter box is. But older pets have often come to the shelter after years of living in a home, so they are usually already housetrained, saving you from weeks, months, or in some cases even years of stress.
Understanding the personality of an animal is key to finding the perfect match for your family and for that homeless pet. While young puppies and kittens are still developing their personalities, you’ll know right away whether a senior dog is a snuggle-bug or a senior cat is more of an independent spirit.
“What you see is what you get,” explains Joplin Humane Society Shelter Services Manager Connie Andrews. “Senior pets take out the guess work about how big a dog will get, what the kitten’s personality will be like when it grows up, or how much energy that puppy will have as an adult.”
Adopters who add a senior pet to the family often get an entirely different level of satisfaction from the adoption experience, says Boston.
“You are truly saving a life that someone else turned away from,” she explains. “Senior pets have so much love and compassion still to share, and they make the most amazing companions.”
Bringing an older pet home from the shelter or rescue can have its own unique challenges, Boston admits. Sometimes, because the pet is at an advanced age, there can be some extra health issues to consider.
“Owning a senior pet is not necessarily ‘cheap,’” Boston explains. “They need regular vet care to insure that they keep their good health, and may need dental care and preventative vet care like blood work.”
But that by no means should deter someone from adopting a senior pet, Boston says. Depending on breed, lifestyle, and existing health issues, a senior dog or cat can still have plenty of healthy and happy years to give as your loving companion.
And apparently once an adopter goes senior, many say they would never go back to adopting a young whippersnapper. Senior pets make some of the most grateful adoptees, Shelter Manager of the Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals in Radnor, Pa., Heather Hennessey, tells Mainline Media News.
“When an adopter comes along to take them in and give them comfort in their later years, they’re so grateful they treat you like a hero,” Hennessey says of senior dogs and cats.
Are you interested in adopting a senior dog or cat in honor of National Adopt a Senior Pet Month? Check out the Adoptable Animal Finder on DogTime.com and CatTime.com. Performing a simple search for a senior pet yields plenty of results, and can help you find the perfect dog or cat to complete your family.