Tonawanda News

November 29, 2012

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Give an older pet a home

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — We’ve all heard that senior animals are harder to adopt. 

Visitors walk by the black cat with a gray muzzle that is sitting quietly and go over to the kittens playing with toys. Or the adult, wire-haired dog that gently wags their tail is overlooked because of the velvety puppy in the next kennel. 

While puppies and kittens are adorable, they are also a lot of hard work. They have, understandably, a long time commitment and a lot of training ahead of them, establishing a feeding routine, potty training, teaching them what to chew/scratch, etc.

November is Adopt-A-Senior-Pet Month (not adopt a senior as a pet month, just to clarify). 

Shelters and rescue groups always have loving, healthy, older pets looking for someone special to take them home and cherish them for the rest of their life. Older pets usually end up at shelters because their owners can no longer take care of them, rather than because of behavioral problems. Animals that are older than two years old are also more difficult to adopt out.

Older animals are just as fun and affectionate as their younger counterparts, making them great first pets for a family or for a senior citizen. In a 2009 documentary “How to Live Forever,” a journalist interviewed centenarians and asked the secret to longevity. There were many different facets each of them revealed but they all shared one thing in common: having a grand purpose for tomorrow. A senior pet could be just that drive that a senior human needs.

Senior dogs are already potty trained and senior cats have their bold or timid personalities showing through. Both older dogs and cats do better by themselves for longer periods of time, compared to younger animals. With senior pets, there is almost no teething or chewing phase, since most are familiar with what chew toys and scratching posts are for. For dogs, what you see is what you get. You will know how large they are going to get, allowing you to know if you have the room or energy to care for them.

I assume one of the reasons why some people choose not to adopt senior pets is the thinking that there will be more medical bills. Young animals also have many immediate medical bills, like their first vaccinations and their initial spay/neuter surgeries. All pets, apart from age, should visit a vet for regular exams, inoculations, tests, dental care and preventative medication. 

Do not be afraid that you can’t teach old pets new tricks. It can be done! Just train them with positive reinforcement like you would any other animal.

Another reason why many of these senior pets do not get adopted is the notion that these pets may die shortly after they are acquired and you will be sad. Adopting the motto “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” is not only appropriate but will hold true on both ends of the relationship. Older pets can be the most difficult to adopt, so you are truly saving a life.

The best pet caregivers are those who have patience, understand the cost requirements and who truly want a pet. Pets are not objects, so please adopt responsibly.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to birdbehaviorconsultant@yahoo.com, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to birdbehaviorconsultant@yahoo.com, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.