When Kathy Simko brought home her newly adopted dog, a 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named “Maggie,” she quickly discovered that her canine companion was full of pleasant surprises
“I asked my sister if she thought Maggie might enjoy going for a walk,” Simko recalls. “As soon as I said it, Maggie jumped up and began wagging her tail. She pranced across the kitchen, picked up her leash in her mouth and brought it to me. Not only did she love going for walks, but I found out she was perfectly leash trained. In fact, she was wonderfully trained in just about every way.”
Many older dogs and cats are full of pleasant surprises like Maggie.They’re mature, well-mannered and eager to spend time around people. Those are but a few of the reasons why pet experts say a mature dog or cat is the ideal match for the person or family who craves companionship, but doesn’t have the time, energy or financial resources that a puppy or kitten requires.
Behavior & Training
The popular phrase “what you see is what you get” rings true for mature mutts and calm cats. Their new Pet Parents know in advance how they get along with other pets and small children, not to mention whether they enjoy getting a bath, riding in the car and how they behave at the veterinarian’s office or groomer. Because puppies and kittens don’t reach maturity until they’re about a year old (even 2 years in the case of some dog breeds), it can be difficult to predict how they’ll ultimately react to different stimuli or situations.
“Older animals are fully grown and their true personalities are apparent,” says Ellen Clark, operations director for the Wisconsin Humane Society. “There are few surprises with an older pet.”
Even better, many older dogs and cats have already been housetrained and they’re beyond the destructive chewing and scratching stages, Clark says. As a result, their Pet Parents don’t need to invest in training classes, chew toys or puppy pads. Older dogs and cats also enjoy a good night’s sleep just as much as their Pet Parents. Unlike puppies and kittens, they don’t need comforting or a potty break at 3 a.m.
“And, you can teach an old dog new tricks if you need to,” Clarksays. “They’re often easier to train because they are mellow and they can focus on you. They learn quickly.”
Mature pets are a good choice for people young and old. Families with small children are wise to consider getting a grown dog or cat who’s already lived in a home with kids and is accustomed to a child’s running, squealing and rambunctious play. Some puppies and kittens are frightened by children and could react with aggressive behavior, such as nipping or scratching. Puppies especially can become over-stimulated when playing with children and might accidentally bite or scratch. And, kittens and puppies have sharper claws and teeth which can result in a more serious injury.
At the same time, research suggests that pets can improve senior citizens’ physical and emotional health. Older dogs that don’t need long walks or strenuous exercise and calm cats who prefer a quiet household, are a perfect match for older Pet Parents.
Aprille Hollis, public information officer for Maricopa County Animal Control (MCACC) in Phoenix, says that some adopters shy away from mature dogs and cats because they wrongly assume that older pets will develop health problems.
“A puppy or kitten can get sick or suffer medical problems just as easily as an older dog or cat. Any pet can get sick or hurt at any age,” she says.
Instead, Pet Parents are likely to discover that many of their new companion’s veterinary needs have already been taken care of by the previous owner or, in the case of shelter pets, by a shelter veterinarian. For example, many older dogs and cats have already been spayed or neutered. They’ve also already received the first series of vaccinations necessary to protect them from deadly diseases, such as parvovirus and distemper in dogs and feline leukemia in cats. That means they’ll need only annual booster shots to stay healthy.
Fewer Fees … or Free!
Because older dogs and cats are more difficult to place than kittens and puppies, many shelters across the country reduce or waive their adoption fees. It’s not uncommon to see adoption fees for pets older than 5 or 6 years of age reduced by 25 to 50 percent vs. younger dogs, cats, kittens and puppies.
“Our adoption fee for dogs and cats aged 5 years and older can be considerably lower because it’s harder to find homes for these pets.Everyone wants the puppies and kittens,” says MCACC’s Hollis. “For example, our puppies can range from $100 to $150, while the fee for an older can be $65.”
At WHS, Clark adds, there is no fee to adopt a cat aged 1 year and older (adopters are still carefully pre-screened to ensure a safe and responsible match).
“The cats are already spayed or neutered, fully vaccinated and implanted with an identification microchip,” she says. “We found that our kittens are adopted very quickly, and by not charging a fee for the older cats, we can find them ‘forever homes’ much more quickly too.”
Finding an Older Pet
If getting an older pet makes sense, here are a few options for finding one:
Check newspaper and Internet classified ads. You’ll find scores of family pets for sale or even “free to good home.”
Looking for a particular breed of pet? Consult a breed-specific rescue organization. Many breed-rescue groups utilize a network of volunteer foster-care providers to care for homeless animals until they find a permanent home.
Visit your local humane society or animal control facility. An estimated 6 to 8 million dogs and cats end up in U.S. shelters every year, but only half of them find homes. Many shelters now have links on their web sites so prospective adopters can see pictures of available pets before driving to the shelter.
Looking to adopt an older pet? See pets for adoption in your zip code at adoptions.petsmart.com
Written by: Kimberly Noetzel / PetSmart Charities