November 26, 2018

Four Reasons to Open Your Mind to Older Pets

a cat with blue eyes

By ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker

When Brooklyn residents Nichole and her boyfriend visited the ASPCA Adoption Center last summer to adopt a cat, they were amazed by the diversity of felines they saw. They ultimately picked the perfect pet for them—a sweet and calm silver tabby named Merv—and couldn’t be happier with their choice.

This is not an unusual story, of course, but the image of Merv in your head right now may not match the truth: Merv is 11 years old.

“He doesn’t seem old—he’s just super laid back, and his personality is already set; I can’t influence it,” Nichole told us. “He’s his own cat, which I really like. And he’s fun, cute and sweet.”

Nichole and Merv’s story illustrates one of the most vital things a prospective pet owner should bring when visiting an animal shelter: an open mind. A playful puppy or kitten might catch their eye at first, but older pets can be just as loyal and lovable and may even better fit their lifestyle. 

The decision to adopt an older animal can also take on lifesaving importance because they are usually the last to be adopted—senior dogs, for example, have a 25% adoption rate, compared to the 60% adoption rate of younger dogs and puppies. 

With November being Adopt a Senior Pet Month, it’s important to know and share some of the least-realized reasons why a senior pet may be the best match for you, including the following:

  • Older dogs have often grown out of habits that a puppy has not, including teething, destructive behavior and accidents in the house
  • Older animals typically have some basic training, and know how to respond to important commands such as “sit” and “down”
  • Mature animals are likely to settle into a home more easily and quickly than younger pets, often due to past experiences living in houses among people or other pets
  • While a puppy’s characteristics and disposition might change over time as he matures, a senior pet is less likely to change because his personality has already developed. (This doesn’t mean “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”—senior pets are extremely adaptive and fully capable of learning new skills)

All animals deserve loving homes, but some cases are more urgent than others, and surprising matches can be made if adopters simply check their expectations at the shelter door. Our database can help you find adoptable seniors at a local shelter near you, so please act soon to save an animal’s life while adding new joy to your own.

Originally published on PuppyToob