Two Senior Cats Demonstrate the Delight of Older Pets
With November being Adopt a Senior Pet Month, it’s important to understand the many advantages that come from adopting an older animal—benefits experienced by both the vulnerable pet and the often enlightened pet owner. The stories of Precious, left, and Smokey, right, make that unique value heartwarmingly clear.
A Precious Encounter
Haviland S. hadn’t had a cat in her life for 12 years when she decided to adopt Precious, an 18-year-old feline from the ASPCA.
“I was set on getting a kitten—I even waited until springtime,” says Haviland. “But when I saw the picture of Precious’ face online, I was smitten.”
Relinquished by her previous owner to the ASPCA in April due to housing challenges, Precious had a history of ear infections and mild dental disease. But none of this mattered to Haviland, who adopted Precious on May 5 after seeing her behavior on a Zoom call with an ASPCA Matchmaker.
“I figure it’s better to get a cat whose personality you know,” says Haviland, who loved her virtual view of Precious.
“Precious is so used to me now,” says Haviland, who works in finance and will return to her office part-time this fall. She reports that Precious loves toys and “does not act like an old lady at all.”
“She plays so hard at night that sometimes I wake up,” says Haviland.
Smokey Gets in Her Eyes
After her last cat died at age 19 in early June, Gayle L. of Manhattan decided to foster Smokey, a 14-year-old black male who was relinquished alongside Precious, though the two were not bonded.
“After a few weeks, I realized my house was too empty without a cat,” says Gayle, who is retired. “I decided to foster since I wasn't sure I was ready to commit to adoption. I'm older and didn't think I could handle a kitten's energy level, but I hadn't really thought about a senior.”
After reading Smokey’s bio and seeing his photo on the foster website, she thought he seemed like a match.
“His age didn't bother me at all; in fact, it was a plus. He won me over immediately,” says Gayle. “Almost from the first second he entered my home, I knew there was something special about him. He's very affectionate, gentle, playful, inquisitive and beautiful. Within a matter of days, I was pretty sure I wanted to adopt him.”
Even at his age, Smokey loves to play with toys and explore his new home’s nooks and crannies.
“He likes to grab small, stuffed toys in his paws, toss them in the air, catch them and run through the house with them before depositing them in my bedroom, which is where all the toys end up,” says Gayle. “Watching Smokey play is better than watching TV. Of course, after all that playtime, he loves his naps.”
Both Precious and Smokey came to the ASPCA with mild tilting on the left-sides of their heads, likely caused by chronic ear infections commonly found in middle-age to older cats.
“Precious was also treated for cysts occluding both ear canals, and both cats underwent ear cleanings and dental surgery,” says Dr. Danielle Delfino, Manager of Veterinarians at the ASPCA Adoption Center.
Both Precious and Smokey get regular ear drops, administered by their adopters.
“Smokey doesn't like it, and that’s the only time he is not happy with me, but he forgives very quickly,” says Gayle.
What Senior Pets Provide
According to Adi Hovav, Senior Manager of Behavior at the ASPCA Adoption Center, senior pets tend to have more predictable personalities that facilitate more reliable matches. They also defy common misconceptions about older pets as being less healthy, less friendly and harder to train.
“Unlike kittens, an older cat probably won’t be climbing your curtains or deciding the litter box is a fun place to roll around,” says Adi.
“All animals deserve safe and loving homes, but some cases are more urgent than others,” wrote ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker in an article about senior pets for Animal Wellness last year. “A strong match is most likely when adopters leave their presumptions at the shelter door and understand that each animal is unique and deserving of fair consideration.”
Loving Last Chapters for Precious and Smokey
Both Haviland and Gayle realize their days with their senior pets are numbered, but that didn’t stop them from adopting.
“Sure, I wondered how much time I’d have with her,” says Haviland. But the concern soon dissipated.
“An advantage to adopting an older pet is that they seem calmer, like laps and have good litter box habits,” says Gayle. “I think they really appreciate being in a home.”
Gayle also thinks Smokey’s age would have been a major obstacle to his adoption.
“I knew I could give him a wonderful home for however many years he has left,” she adds. “I couldn't have found a more perfect cat. I'm in love and I think the feeling is mutual.”