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November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, a time of year that’s always celebrated in my home. My life has been so blessed and enriched by my two cats, Freddy and Sweetie, who are both well over 20 and are thankfully still going strong. If you can bring home a new pet, consider adopting a senior kitty.
“Think of a pet that is already trained and doesn’t chew or scratch everything in sight -- a pet that will love you unconditionally,” says Kim Saunders, director of public relations for PetFinder.com. “That’s what you get when you adopt a senior pet.” PetFinder.com is sponsoring Adopt a Senior Pet Month, which grows in popularity each year. Here are more reasons why you should consider bringing home such a cat:
1. You will avoid the “kitten zoomies.”
Kittens offer their own playful companionship and charms, but they also require a certain amount of tolerance. “The internal energy clock of kittens tends to go off between 3 and 5 a.m.,” says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center and Mobile Clinic Outreach Program. “That’s when kitten owners are awakened the most.”
Veterinarians even get calls from concerned owners of kittens and “teenaged cats” (cats under the age of 2). “They’ll phone in saying, ‘Something is wrong with my cat. It’s always running around and getting into mischief,’” according to Buchwald, who usually assures them that the behavior is probably tied to the cat version of the “terrible twos.”
2. You will gain a loyal, loving family member.
Some people worry that senior pets come with problems, but Hazel Blumberg-McKee of Tallahassee, Fla., who has adopted senior animals, believes there are no disadvantages. She explains that “in most cases, they’ve had a home and they want one again. An older animal is easier to deal with.”
Buchwald, who has an elderly cat, agrees. “You’ll likely find yourself with a lap cat, a snuggle cat, a greet-you-at-the-door cat all rolled into one.” On top of that, “your new senior cat won’t place tremendous demands on you as a kitten might.”
3. You will still likely have an active, playful pet.
Cats, like humans, often live long, active and healthy lives well past adulthood. I can certainly attest to that, as my Freddy and Sweetie are still quite frisky and playful without being kitten zoomers. “There’s a bias in our culture toward youth, and that extends to our pets,” explains Buchwald. “Senior cats often remain playful, wanting to chase after string, bat a ball, or otherwise want to enjoy spending active time with you.”
4. You may save money.
The ASPCA sometimes offers a “Free Over Three” adult cat adoption promotion. Check with your local shelter to see if that, or a similar program, is in place. “We were concerned we’d have a lot of returns, since the over-3-year-old cats are free, but quite the opposite happens,” says Buchwald. “Families fall in love with their cats and don’t want to let them go.”
You may also save money on your medical bills. The Humane Society of the United States reports that senior humans, in particular, may enjoy lower blood pressure and other cardiac benefits from the soothing presence of a cat. Pets also help ease loneliness, thereby promoting mental health too.
Tips on Caring for a Senior Cat
Buchwald offers these five basic guidelines for senior pet care:
Feed your elderly cat a senior diet. “Veterinarians recommend senior diets for older cats,” she explains. Certain cats may require other special diets if they have particular health issues.
Groom your cat regularly. “Sometimes older cats will slack off on grooming themselves,” she explains.
Provide playtime. Just as we humans need to exercise throughout our lives, so do cats.
Keep it relatively quiet. “If your home is like Grand Central Station all the time, your older cat is likely to become stressed out,” she says. Make sure your cat has a nice, quiet spot to retreat to throughout the day.
Schedule regular veterinary visits. Prevention and early detection can save, and extend, lives.
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Daily Cat. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animals, health and other science-related topics.
Cats reach full skeletal development when they are this old: