SPCA New Zealand

Golden oldies - why senior pets are best

25 October 2018
Golden oldies - why senior pets are best

With their specks of grey fur, a wobbly walk and a penchant for stubbornness, senior pets are oh-so-charming. Sadly, senior pets in a shelter environment are often overlooked in favour of puppies and kittens. Here we share seven reasons why you should consider adopting a senior pet.

1. Senior pets are older and wiser

While many people believe that older pets wind up in an animal shelter because of behaviour problems, most of the time it isn’t the fault of the animal at all.

Common reasons why adult or senior pets are given up include their owner has sadly passed away or moved overseas, the loss of a job, or a family member developing allergies. Well-trained and wellbehaved pets find themselves up for adoption all the time.

When you adopt a senior pet you may find yourself with a pretrained pet who already knows basic obedience. Senior pets are usually toilet-trained, for example. There may be the occasional accident as your pet adjusts to a new home, but most of the work has already been done.

2. Senior pets make great stress relievers

Studies have shown that animal guardianship can decrease blood pressure levels and reduce stress, and this is particularly true with senior pets. Senior pets are naturally more mellow and relaxed than younger pets.

They do not demand the time and attention that a younger dog or cat does, and are satisfied with leisurely walks and gentle play time. And after a long day, your senior pet will be happy to curl up with you and pass the evening watching television. Plus, older pets let you get a good night’s sleep because they’re accustomed to human schedules and don’t generally need night-time feedings, comforting, or bathroom breaks. Often, senior pets are much less demanding than their younger counterparts.

3. Find your perfect match with a senior pet

How big will your puppy or kitten grow to be? What kind of temperament will they have? Will they be easily trained? How active will they be? Will they get along with other animals? When adopting an older pet, all of these questions are easily answered. Senior pets are completely developed both physically and personality-wise – you’ll already be able to tell their full-grown size, grooming requirements, temperament, and more. This kind of information will help you pick the right dog or cat for your family.

When you meet your senior dog or cat, you will know straight away what kind of wonderful, loving animal they are and will always be.

4. Old dog, new tricks

Despite the old saying, older dogs (and cats!) can be trained to learn new tricks. Dogs and cats of any age can continue learning, growing and expanding their cognitive development.

Even if your older pet hasn’t received any formal training, adult dogs and cats are calmer and more focused than the younger ones. They are ready and eager to learn, making them the perfect candidates for improving their training or teaching them new tricks. Plus, unlike puppies, adult dogs are eager to please their owners and therefore much easier to train. Enrol your senior pooch in an obedience class, contact a trainer, or go the do-it-yourself route and watch them shine.

5. What you see is what you get with older pets

Animals are full of surprises as they grow up, and that includes personality quirks or medical issues you didn’t plan for. When adopting a senior pet, often these issues have already come to light and are part of their adoption story. Many people think that senior animals are more expensive to own than younger animals because of health issues. But the reality is you never know what your puppy or kitten will need as they grow up.

They may develop a medical condition that requires ongoing care. With older pets, you will have a better idea of what your potential new family member will require health-wise. Just be sure you get a health check from a veterinarian before you adopt a senior pet – that way, you will be fully informed and prepared.

6. Fun for the whole family

Senior pets make wonderful companions for everyone, especially retired people and busy professionals. Older dogs require less exercise than puppies, so will be better suited for older people who cannot provide their pet with big long walks. Plus, they tend to be calmer and less energetic, so they are less likely to jump up and knock an older (or younger) family member over. Similarly, families with young children can benefit from an animal who is more tolerant and who has probably already been well socialised with a wide range of people. Busy professionals might find it more practical to adopt an older cat or dog.

When juggling a lot of commitments, it may be harder to dedicate the time needed for a puppy or kitten versus an older animal. Young puppies especially require a tremendous amount of time and commitment – from needing a great deal of training and exercise to preventing them from being destructive. They suit an environment where they have parttime care during the day. An older animal is much easier to handle for those who are busy. 7

7. All animals need love

One of the best reasons to adopt a senior animal has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with kindness. Senior pets, like any animal, deserve a chance to live out their later years in a loving environment. When you adopt a senior pet, you’re ensuring they get a second chance at a loving home. Some older animals may have had a rocky past. Perhaps they had an abusive previous owner, or they were stray and living on the streets, or perhaps they were just ignored by a family that didn’t have time for them.

But animals are incredibly resilient and are experts at forgiving. Whatever their history, if you give your love to an older animal, you can be sure they will devote the rest of their life to loving you back. After all, senior pets have years of experience in the fine art of friendship

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