There are approximately 3,455 reasons to adopt a senior pet (#456: That adorable gray fur!!!) but it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before you rush out to your local shelter.
Our vets have helped thousands of senior pet owners keep their pets healthy, manage aging gracefully, and when the time came, even say a dignified goodbye. Here’s what they want you to know about adopting a senior pet.
1.”Senior” is a really loaded word.
When you think of a senior pet, what do you think of? It’s probably a 14-year old Golden Retriever or something similar, arthritic and low-energy. But the term “senior” can be accurately applied to pets as young as 5!
It’s true. Some breeds, such as Great Danes, hit senior status around the age of 5. For most pets, seniorhood begins around age 7 but by age 10? All pets are considered senior. Why does that matter to you? Because if you’re concerned about having only a limited amount of time with your senior pet before they cross the rainbow bridge, there’s a simple solution! Adopt a “young” senior (an 8 year old Siamese cat in good health; an energetic 11 year old Yorkshire Terrier) and you could easily have a decade of life to live together.
2. Senior pets have medical issues…but not always.
One of the biggest pushbacks from people considering adopting a senior pet is health. The assumption is that senior rescues are inherently unhealthy, in part because of their age. Some people assume senior pets are up for adoption in the first place because they’re in bad health.
It’s true that senior pets have more health concerns than younger pets. There’s simply no way around it. But it’s also true that a senior animal can be every bit as healthy as its younger counterpart. Many common senior health issues can be prevented with adequate, regular veterinary care, too, so it’s simply a misnomer that you won’t have any control over how healthy (or unhealthy) a senior rescue turns out to be.
3. Seniors can be trained!
[Insert joke here about old dog, new tricks.] Just because a pet is older doesn’t mean it’s lost its ability to learn new things. The key to training a senior dog is to replace its existing behaviors with new ones. Not only can it be done, stimulating your senior pet’s mind can actually keep it healthy and young.
Don’t assume that a senior rescue who’s obstinate, only partially house-trained, or a little reactive around other animals can’t be taught new ways to behave. It can. It’s all about finding the right motivation and enlisting help when you need to.
4. Senior pets are calm.
One of the most reliable traits of an older pet is that seniors have a little less energy the older they get. For many pet parents, that’s a good thing! Senior rescues can be exactly the right speed for a number of potential pet parents, from retirees to small children to the housebound.
Not only do senior pets need less physical exercise, they’re also some of the cuddliest. Many seniors are so happy to have a loving forever home they become instant companions. Pet owners report bonding incredibly deeply with senior pets relative to younger animals.