Adopt an Older Senior Cat

Published March 13, 2019
Senior cat asleep in blankets

Any animal shelter worker or volunteer can tell you about the high percentage of adopters looking for a kitten. Adult cats have a harder time being adopted, and for senior cats in particular are often overlooked. Don't lose out on the chance to bring home an amazing cat because of their age!

Benefits of Adopting a Senior Cat

There are many wonderful things about adopting a senior cat. There's so many reasons to give them a second look before you take home a kitten or young adult.

You Know Who They Are

A kitten's personality may not be a 100% accurate indicator of what they'll be like as an adult. How much time you must socialize them, and your lifestyle can affect their behavioral development. A senior cat has long settled into their personality and there's no guessing about what they're like. This can be very useful if you have children and need to know how the cat will be in your home.

You Know Their Size

Likewise, just as their personality is settled, you will know for sure how big your cat will be. A senior is fully grown and there's no chance for surprises about the size and weight of your cat.

More Chance They're Trained

Assuming your older cat has previously lived in a home, your senior is more likely to be litter box trained and know how to "act" in a home. This means there's a better chance they know how to use scratching posts, won't chew up items and aren't going to engage in more annoying, kitten-like behaviors.

A Relaxed Temperament

Most senior cats are relaxed and prefer to spend their days sleeping. This is true even for cats who may have been very energetic when they were much younger. If you have a quiet household and need a calm, sedate companion, a senior cat is a perfect choice.

Financial Benefits

While you can't put a price on love, one monetary benefit of a senior cat is that they often have lower adoption fees than younger cats and kittens. Some shelters and rescues will even place senior cats for free during certain times of the year when they hold promotions.

Cons of Adopting a Senior Cat

As wonderful as senior cats can be, they may not be the best choice for you. Your financial resources and lifestyle may be a deterrent.

Medical Costs

One of the major reasons that senior cats end up in shelters is due to medical issues. Owners may feel unable to keep up with the veterinary costs and turn the pet in. Most shelters and rescues that are aware of a cat's health history will let you know what to expect. If you're at a time of your life with a tight budget, a senior cat with a known medical issue might not be for you. Some rescues and shelters have programs in place to assist with these costs for adopters who take harder to adopt pets home.

Chronic Stress

Cats are creatures of routine and an older cat may have a much harder time adapting to life at a shelter. Therefore, they may develop behavioral problems such as fear and anxiety after being surrendered and exhibit these in a home once they're adopted. Or, they may develop medical issues due to the chronic stress in the shelter that do not present themselves until well after the adoption.

Incompatible Lifestyle

Most senior cats are calm and relaxed and will spend a good deal of their time sleeping. A cat at this stage of life may not enjoy a chaotic household with many loud, active children and other rambunctious younger pets. This isn't a rule however and you may find some seniors who enjoy all the activity.

Longevity of Your Cat

One of the hardest parts of pet ownership is dealing with their short lifespan. Adopting a senior pet means falling in love with a cat who will not be with you as long as a kitten. This may be enough of a reason to deter pet owners who have difficulty handling a pet's death. It's also a consideration if you have young children since it's a given they will have to experience the passing of a beloved pet during their childhood.

Adopting an Older Cat Vs. a Kitten

When deciding whether to adopt a senior cat or a kitten, you should consider the following:

  • Lifestyle-Is your home very active and noisy with lots of people coming and going? A senior may not do as well in a chaotic atmosphere.
  • Activity Level-Do you want a pet that will play with you and amuse you constantly with their antics? Most seniors are more likely to prefer a cuddle and a nap instead of a rousing game of chase the wand toy.
  • Children in the Home-Your children's age and personality can make a difference in whether you want a younger, active kitten or an older, quieter senior. Some children would do best with a more relaxed cat with a fixed personality whereas others might irritate an older cat.
  • Financial Concerns-You are more likely to spend money right away on a senior cat's medical issues, although this doesn't mean you won't have to visit the veterinarian with a kitten.
  • Other Pets-A senior cat may be more relaxed around other pets in the home or may be more set in his or her ways and swat at dogs that pester them or other cats. Take a good look at your own current pets' personalities before choosing a new pet that's compatible.

Tips for a Successful Senior Cat Adoption

If you've made the decision to bring a senior cat into your home, there's a few steps to take to make a smooth transition for your new feline.

Older Maine coon cat

Allow Time to Adjust

Give your new cat time to adjust. Instead of letting them loose in your home, confine them for at least the first two days to a smaller area, such as a bedroom or den. Let the cat get used to the scents and sounds of his new home. If he or she needs to hide, let them and don't force them to come out. Make sure he has everything he needs in this smaller space, such as a cat bed, food and water dish, and litter box.

Use Scents

Before bringing your cat home, either sleep with a towel or old t-shirt or place one in your laundry hamper so it smells like you. Place this item on your cat's bed so he can cuddle up to it and get used to your scent.

Spend Quality Time

Make sure that you and every member of the household spends small amounts of time with the cat in the space, so he gets to know who you are. Sit in the room and allow him to interact with you at his own's pace. If the cat is more nervous and fearful, bring in a book or your laptop and sit on the floor and read or work. This lets him observe you and make the decision to get closer when he feels safe.

Introduce Other Pets Slowly

If you have other pets, these introductions should be done slowly and over the course of several days or even weeks depending on the personality of your new cat and your other pets. Realize a senior cat has had a long time to develop who he or she is and having the sudden change of new pets can be particularly jarring and harder to adapt to.

See Your Home Through a Senior's Eyes

Older cats may not be as agile as younger kittens. If you already have cats, or had them in the past, and your home is filled with cat items such as trees, window perches and catios, make sure that your senior can access these physically. You may need to make some modifications or provide steps as he or she may not be able to jump as high as a young kitten or adult.

See Your Veterinarian

Even if your new senior cat seems perfectly healthy, it's important to get them in to your veterinarian for a check-up and establish a chart. Senior cats need to see the vet more often than a younger cat and in fact it's recommended a senior pet get a checkup at least twice a year. If this is your first pet, now is the time to find a vet and develop that relationship right away so you'll be ready to care for your cat's health as he or she gets older and inevitably develops medical issues.

Should You Adopt a Senior Cat?

Senior cats make loving, calm companions who do well with all ages in the household. Don't pass them by just because they're old! If you're financially able to care for them if they have any medical concerns and you have the right lifestyle, you'll find some real "seasoned" feline gems waiting to come home with you and enrich your life.

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Adopt an Older Senior Cat