One quick look through any rehoming charity adoption page will show up a host of dogs, cats and other animals who are in need of a new home, for a multitude of reasons.
But older pets are usually the most common find here. This can be because their owner has died, had to move or because the pet needs a bit more care and attention than they can be given. Changes in diet or additional supplements can also be pricy.
Dogs and cats over the age of 7 are said to make up well over 2/3 of all pets in shelters who need a new home, and pets of all kinds are also living longer than ever thanks to a better understanding of food and exercise needs.
Despite being the most widely available age to adopt, older pets are still overlooked for cuter, younger animals. This can be for many reasons – younger pets may require less healthcare and vet visits, may be a bit more active or playful, and will likely be with the family for longer.
Many people also have misconceptions about older animals, believing that they could be difficult and hard to settle in. Painful loss is also closer than with a young pet.
However, adopting an older pet is well worth the extra effort in our minds, and indeed there are hundreds of people around the UK who already say that giving older, overlooked pets a second chance is the only way they’d have it.
Emma Dunlop-Walters from Newbury adopted a 12-year-old tabby who had only 6 months left to live. He was suffering from kidney failure and high blood pressure but giving him a comfortable last few months was of the utmost importance to Emma and her family, and they showered him with love.
But it seems that all that love and care actually worked wonders for the feline – he went on to be with Emma for a further 4 years, a feat which even the vets couldn’t believe. It is a great example of how adopting an older pet can not only be rewarding for humans but can also give the animal a new lease of life.
Reasons To Adopt An Older Pet
Be A Hero
Pets who have been abandoned at a shelter can become depressed, isolated and withdrawn. This is especially relevant if the pet has been with their original home for quite a long time.
Giving them a new place to call home is so important, and can change their life. After all, they deserve to live out the rest of their life in a warm, cosy home with plenty of love and spoiling!
They may need a bit more care when it comes to their health, but there is one area in which they will likely need little attention – training.
Dogs will probably already know where to go to the toilet, not to jump up on the beds, and how to walk well by your side. This is the opposite situation to a puppy, who will need hours of training every day over a period of time.
Cats may be less inclined to bring you little ‘gifts’ or be out until the early hours, preferring to sleep on your nap.
Want companionship but don’t have the time to put into training? Seems like a win-win situation to us.
But Old Dogs Can Still Learn New Tricks!
Older pets aren’t as they are and that’s that. They will actually likely be able to pick up training quicker, as they have already been through it, or they have a longer attention span.
Some may take a while to settle in and change habits, but once they adapt, it should be a breeze.
They’re Already ‘Them’
When you get a puppy, there are lots of questions.
How big will they grow? Will they always be friendly and good with kids? How will they react around other dogs when they’re older?
Just because your 1-year-old is friendly and good with other animals doesn’t mean they always will be. Each life stage can mean a change in temperament, behaviour and mood.
Older dogs are easier to assess, as they have already been through their hormonal changes. So, it is easier to pick one which will fit into your home and lifestyle.
The same applies to cats. Some are friendly and crave attention, and others are perfectly fine if left by themselves, thank you. Which is best for you? You probably have a good idea, and the shelter will be able to find a perfect match.
Extend Their Life
As Emma’s story shows, adopting a pet to give them a lovely final few weeks can actually turn into them reaching a ripe old age!
Pets need love and safety to feel secure and happy. And, like us humans know, that can work wonders for our wellbeing and life expectancy too. So, it doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise to hear that pets finding a new home can also improve theirs.
A quick search on the Internet shows that this is not a lone story, and dogs and cats of all ages have been with their final owner for a lot longer than anticipated.
For some of us, the thought of going through bereavement after a short time with your new pet can be off-putting. But Oldies Club, a charity which helps old dogs find new homes, says that the short-term commitment can actually work out better for some people. They say:
“How many of us know what we will be doing in five years time, or ten? Many people could offer a fantastic home to a dog but ‘would like to travel in a few years’ or ‘will go back to work when the kids start school’.
When you take on a pup or a young dog you need to be as sure as you can that you can honour that dog with a home for life, which can be anything up to 18 years or more. With an older dog, the commitment is just as immense, but the time-frame is likely to be shorter.”
When you put it like that, an older pet may actually be the most logical option for some.
But Do Be Cautious
Older pets bring so much joy and are rewarding, but be aware that if they have health issues, this could be costly over time.
You also need to keep an eye on their weight, may have to feed them a speciality diet, and could need to change around your home a little bit to make stairs, steps and rooms more accessible. Long walks and runs may also be out of the question, as would jumping up for cats.
They also won’t be as active, and it could take a little while for them to settle in so you need to be patient. There is also the inevitable loss; being with a pet for just a few months or years when you’ve bonded can be hard. But do know that you gave them a new spurt of life, and made plenty of memories. A quality life can be worth the lack of quantity.