The graying face, the gentle gaze — there are so many endearing attributes of senior pets, yet so many of them are overlooked by potential adopters. Many people look to younger pets when seeking out a forever companion, but could an older animal actually be the perfect fit for your lifestyle?
You may not have considered it, but your home may an ideal setting for a senior pet, and there's no better time than Adopt a Senior Pet month to see if a senior dog or cat is right for you!
What is a senior pet?
The American Veterinary Medical Association considers most dogs to be geriatric, or senior, around the age of seven, although very large breeds may hit the senior mark as young as six. As senior pets have aged out of their puppy years and young adulthood, they will begin to experience changes both physically and mentally around this time. Because every dog is different, however, some senior dogs remain active well into their golden years, while others will start to slow down considerably. While adding a new puppy or kitten is exciting to some, many people prefer the company of an older animal for their generally gentle demeanors and appreciative attitudes.
Why adopt a senior pet?
If you're looking to add a companion animal to your home, there are several reasons why a senior pet can make a great option to consider. A promising prospect for many rests on the simple fact that you won't have a puppy or kitten, and all the chaos that comes with one, on your hands for the next two or so years. Unlike puppies, senior dogs often don't require the amount of time, attention, play, and structure needed to keep their energy levels in check (and your home in order.) Of course, that's not to say that senior dogs don't require and enjoy time and attention, but in many cases, they just don't need nearly as much of it to keep their destructive tendencies at bay.
Another great reason to adopt a senior pet is for the simple fact that they are so often overlooked, which means many of them sadly end up dying in shelters. The ASPCA reported in 2015 that the adoption rate for senior dogs is only 25%, which is considerably lower than that of younger dogs, at 60%. Oftentimes, these older dogs, cats, birds, and other animals in the shelter system have spent most of their lives in loving homes, only to live out their final days in the scary and uncertain confines of a city shelter or rescue organization. Adoption can change the life of any pet, and our senior friends deserve that second chance as well.
Is your home ideal?
The perfect home for any pet will be one shared with a loving and competent caretaker, but sometimes, circumstances can make an especially good fit for an older dog or cat. The ideal home will, of course, depend on your animal and her needs and preferences, but in many cases, a quiet, low-traffic home is all an older dog or cat needs to get comfortable. If your idea of the perfect companion animal involves calm days with a pet who lays by your feet, the right senior will likely make a better fit for you than a young dog or an energetic kitten. Unlike some younger dogs or cats, older pets tend to be more calm, quiet, and well-mannered, which can make them an ideal option for a first-time pet owner as well.
Because many seniors tend to require less exercise than a younger animal, a smaller home may be suitable for low-energy dogs and cats, which could make sense for an apartment-dweller or someone working with less abundant space in some cases. For this same reason, a low-energy senior can make a great match for someone who simply isn't willing or able to make regular strenous exercise with their pet a priority at this time. Additionally, as most senior dogs have come from previous homes, many of them already come equipped with the dog training basics, most conveniently, house training.
Of course, none of these suggestions are hard and fast rules, as every animal is different and comes from their own unique set of circumstances, but, as Clear the Shelters says, many dogs and cats surrendered in their senior years can make the perfect fit for someone looking for a gentle companion animal. If you're still on the fence about adopting an older pet but are considering a companion for your home, fostering can be a great way to see how it feels with a minimal commitment. If you're interested in fostering an adoptable pet, talk to rescues and shelters in your area to see if fostering is right for you.