Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's Adopt a Senior Pet Month! Why you should give old cats a chance

senior tuxedo cat outside in the sunshine
All across the country, animal shelters are putting up signs, writing up press releases and writing Facebook posts about November's status as National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. I've seen dozens of these notices come flying by on my computer, and a lot of them read a bit like this:

"Senior pets are often overlooked at the shelter, because potential owners worry about shortened life spans and increased costs when they see pets of an advanced age. We'd like to change that. Please visit our profiles of senior pets, and bring one home with you."

It's all very admirable, but I think these messages could be improved with stories written by real people with senior pets. They're the ones who live with these creatures and know what they're like, and they might have the missing piece of data that could help to change a reluctant adopter's mind.

And as it just so happens, I have four senior cats living with me right now. Here's why I wouldn't think twice about adopting them, if I happened to see them in the shelter.

1. They're still very playful and fun. 

Some seniors can be quiet, retiring and very relaxed. Mine aren't. They still like to run, jump, play and get crazy. They also manage to do things every day that make me laugh. Beorn, for example, likes to fold his arms underneath his body and rest his torso on top of the car, so he looks a little like a mascot on the prow of a ship. Check it out:
Funny Russian blue cat on top of car
I have no idea why he does this, but it makes me laugh every time.

Seniors still have the capacity to be great playmates. They're not doorstops that simply accept love and give nothing in return. Mine are just as entertaining now as they were when they were kittens.

2. They take time for cuddles. 

Kittens and juvenile cats can be biting and running machines. They have a lot of energy to spend, and a lot of things to figure out about the world, and they sometimes can't be bothered to slow down long enough to be good companions to you or to their roommates.

My seniors as a little different. While they do play, they also enjoy sitting and resting and snuggling. They're wonderful companions to have around on cold evenings, as they make great lap warmers. But they're also quite nice to one another, as snuggling and resting together is a favored activity. I love to see cats snuggle, so this makes me happy, too.
Two big cats in one small cat bed

3. They have wisdom and common sense. 

Ever tried to get any cleaning done with a kitten in the room? I have, and let me tell you, it isn't easy. You bring a bucket of water in, the kitten falls into the bucket after trying to play with the water, you scoop the kitten back out of the water, and the kitten tries to play with the water again. Raising a wee one like this means constantly watching out for hazards and dangers, and spending a lot of time steering little bodies away from things that will kill them. Sure, kittens are cute, but they can be really nerve-wracking.
Tiny kitten in animal shelter
My senior cats are still interested in me and the things I'm doing, but they're also wise enough to protect themselves. They might investigate the water in a bucket, for example, but they're not going to climb in there and drown. They're smarter and wiser than that. It's this wisdom that makes them easier to live with, as I don't have to be so alert for all of the trouble a tiny kitten might get into.

Adoption is, of course, a very personal thing. People fall in love with cats for all sorts of reasons, and few of them have to do with age. As a result, it's reasonable that someone might walk into a shelter determined to adopt a senior and walk out with a kitten instead. Love can be unpredictable.

But clearly, seniors do have a lot to offer their owners. I hope many get the chance to prove that this November.

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