It's understandable that most people wanting to adopt shelter pets look for a puppy or a kitten, or at least a pet who's young enough to be with them for several years.  At the same time, however, there are millions of older dogs and cats who have sweet dispositions, the kind of good manners they've picked up over the years and would make outstanding companions.

As veterinarian, Dr. Betsy Becker, writes for Healthy Pets:

"Recently I discussed the problem of hard-to-adopt shelter pets.  At the top of the list of dogs and cats languishing in shelters across the U.S. are older animals.  It makes me terribly sad to know these poor animals are frightened, disoriented, and waiting anxiously in their kennels for their families to come back and collect them.  And it's sadder still to know many of these pets will never leave the shelter... unless more adoptive families are willing to give them a second look."

Before you make your final adoption decision, consider these 10 benefits of taking a senior pet home with you:

  1. Older pets are already trained:  senior pets have spent most of their lives living in someone else's home, someone who's already done the heavy lifting of housebreaking them and even teaching them common commands, like "sit," "stay" and "fetch."  Because they're accustomed to living with a human family, an older dog or cat will be easier to acclimate to your home, something that's especially important for those with busy schedules.
  2. You won't be as concerned with potential destruction issues:  younger pets have a great deal of pent-up energy, energy they sometimes expend by causing damage to your home and belongings.  Generally, when you take home an older pet, you won't need to be concerned about coming home to find holes in your sofa, or your favorite pair of shoes chewed up.
  3. You'll know his or her history:  most cats and dogs change over time, and sometimes those changes can cause substantial strife in your home.  When you adopt an older pet, you can find out precisely what his behavioral history is, and any medical issues that might be of concern. 
  4. You'll know about potential behavioral conflicts:  one of the more frustrating aspects of bringing a younger pet home is finding out that they don't get along with other pets already in your house.  For example, some dogs simply don't get along with other dogs, or with cats.  With an older dog or cat, you can find out ahead of time whether they have any such issues and avoid the heartbreak of having to part with one of them.
  5. You can find an older, purebred pet:  many people are surprised to learn that not all older shelter pets are mixed breeds.  If you're set on bringing home a purebred Siamese cat or a beagle, you can find one a local shelter if you're willing to look, and sometimes to wait until one shows up.
  6. Senior pets are often more grateful to be adopted:  the older dogs and cats you see at the shelter were left there by someone with whom they lived most, if not all, their lives.  Because they've lost that companionship, they're typically more grateful to be taken in by a new family who can restore the feelings of belonging, caring and companionship they so desperately miss.
  7. You could be saving its life:  because some shelters destroy the dogs and cats in their care after a given period of time, and because it's often harder for older pets to be adopted, there's a reasonably good chance that adopting one of these loving animals could be savings its life.  That's something which will make you feel better about yourself, and arguably make your love for your new family member even stronger. 

Conclusion

Only you can decide what kind of pet is best for you and your family, but it's a mistake to automatically rule out a loving, intelligent animal companion simply because he or she is getting a little long in the tooth.  Take the time to think about all the benefits of adopting an older pet before you rule out that possibility.  You could find that taking a senior pet home was one of the best decisions you ever made.

Tags: cats, dogs, pets, senior


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