Thursday, April 23, 2015

5 facts about older cats everyone should know

Eamon the cat sleeps with Maggie the cat

Eamon and Maggie are both senior cats. Eamon might be considered a "super senior," in fact, because he's celebrating his 14th birthday this month.

I love living with older cats. But I'm well aware of the fact that I'm in the minority. Cats that enter shelters when they're older than 10 have a much harder time getting back out again, mainly because they just can't find people willing to take a chance on them.

So in honor of Eamon's birthday, I thought I'd write up a few observations on older cats. Maybe I can convince a few readers out there to pick up a senior sweetie, rather than a wee kitten, when it's time to add to the animal fold.

Fact 1: A cat you consider "old" might simply be middle aged.

Most people consider a cat that's hit the double digits to be a senor cat. But, the ASPCA says that the average cat with average care can live somewhere between 13 and 17 years.

So let's think about that.

A cat that's in the double digits has probably received at least decent care up to this point. Otherwise, it wouldn't have made it out of the dangerous juvenile years (more on that later). So if an "average" cat can live to be 17, a cat that's already older should probably reach the higher end of that spectrum or surpass it altogether.

If that's true, a cat you adopt at 9 could be with you for 8 or more years. That's a heck of a long time, right? So that senior might simply be middle aged.

Fact 2: Older cats don't sleep all the time. 

Older cats aren't couch potatoes. Maggie and Eamon have at least two very robust play sessions each and every day, and when I walk by them throughout the day, they often look up or get up and ask for attention. They're not ornamental creatures that just lie around. They are both very active parts of the Dion household, with very robust personalities and intense demands.

Fact 3: Older cats don't always come with bigger vet bills. 

Adolescent kittens can be insane. This is the time of Eamon's life when he was tearing through the house at all hours and breaking almost anything that came into his path. He got caught in my blinds, he slipped a toe underneath a moving rocking chair, and he ate more dangerous plant particles than I can name.

So we went to the vet. A lot.

As a senior, Eamon needs quite a bit of medical care, especially because he has arthritis. But, the amount of money I spend on his medications pales in comparison to the amount I spent fixing him up when he did stupid stuff as a teenage cat.

To me, adopting an older cat can be a cost-saving measure. There's just less patch-up to do.

Troy the cat and Sinead the Boston terrier sleeping together

Fact 4: Old cats can adjust to new situations. 

It's a common belief that older pets are somehow set in their ways, unable to adjust to new people and new places.

That's just not true.

Troy is a great example. As far as I know, he's never lived with dogs in his prior 14-ish years. But within a month of heading home with me from the shelter, he's made friends with my dogs. I snapped this photo of him sharing a sunny spot with sweet Sinead yesterday. Clearly, he has adjusted. Most older cats can do the same.

Fact 5: Older cats are just as lovable, and deserving of love, as younger cats. 

We shouldn't live in a throwaway society in which cats become less and less valuable with each passing year. We should live in a society in which the contributions of older cats are respected, and one in which every cat has a chance for love and protection.

So in honor of Eamon, head out and take a senior home. Or if that's not possible, donate some food to your local shelter, or hop on over and pet the older cuties waiting for a home. You'll be glad you did.

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