Adopting a Senior Pet from the Shelter


For one reason or another, senior pets are often overlooked by prospective adopters. But, as supporters of animal welfare and, since November is designated as Adopt a Senior Pet Month, we’re here to tell you – senior pets make GREAT companion animals. And the truth is, unless more people are willing to give them a chance – they might stay at the shelter forever! On the plus side, this means that if you are looking for a new furry friend you can probably find an exact match for your personality and lifestyle among the seniors, because there are so many waiting for adoption.

Sadly, due to overcrowding in shelters, older pets are often among the first animals to be euthanized. By adopting a senior pet, you may actually be saving a life! Obviously there are a few things to be wary of (like health and behavioral issues), however most animal shelters have a number of healthy, happy senior pets available and provide the animal’s complete health history for perusal prior to adoption. Most perform routine health care (vaccines, etc.) for the animals in their care and almost all shelter pets are spayed or neutered. If you adopt a pet from one of our shelter partners, you can get discounted Activ4Pets membership to track all their health information through our handy mobile app.

Dogs fall into their “senior” years when they’re aged between 8-10; cats when they’re between 10-12. For first time pet owners, senior animals offer a great “intro” to life with a fur baby because they’re much less hyperactive. Although a lot of people are drawn to puppies and kittens, younger animals require a lot of time and effort to train and socialize. Many seasoned pet owners thrive on this, but too much responsibility can be offputting for new pet owners. Senior pets tend to integrate much quicker into your home and family and there’s no housebreaking required! So, thanks to their lower demands for exercise and attention (and a tendency to be less destructive), the chances of surrendering the pet post adoption may be lower. As such, senior pets have a charm about them – and won’t ever stop expressing their gratitude for being given another chance.

Here is an overview on some of the health and behavioral characteristics to look out for with senior cats and dogs, along with some tips and tricks for integrating them into your family.



Health Overview

There are three main internal illnesses to be considered when adopting an older feline. Diabetes, Renal Failure, and Hyperthyroidism. Diabetes is a common problem in senior cats yet easily treated with prescription diets and also insulin therapy which can be controlled within reasonable costs. Renal Failure (known as Kidney Disease) is a gradual problem leading to dehydration and anorexia. Hyperthyroidism is a condition affecting the thyroid gland which leads to weight loss and high blood pressure. Again, hyperthyroidism is usually easy to manage, though there will be additional expenses for special diet and medications.

Cats can be screened for all three problems with a simple blood test known as a CBC/Chemistry Profile. Most shelters will test their cats for all types of health issues to give adopters the complete picture beforehand.

Behavioral Overview

Animal shelters and rescues also screen their animals for any behavior issues. Most senior cats have a calm, if solemn manner and shouldn’t take too long to integrate into new households.

Tips and Tricks

Cats tend to be territorial so it’s advisable to give them plenty of time and space to adjust to their new surroundings once you get home. Don’t rush into introductions with kids and other pets, it’s all about getting them established and confident in the new environment. With a little time though, senior cats interact well with other pets and people but patience is key. Make sure their food, water, bed and litter tray are all easily accessible (accounting for any mobility issues) and be vigilant about younger family members who might accidentally disrupt the feline. Visiting the vet is a great place to start because he or she can offer advice on diet, shots and general preventive care. Most of all a senior cat will enjoy your love and affection, while giving plenty of their own in return.



Health Overview

Older dogs are prone to Arthritis especially in large breeds. Overweight dogs are more susceptible as standing and walking become difficult and painful. Other minor issues with older dogs include Dental Disease, Heart Murmurs, and Cataracts. Dental Disease (rotten teeth) is very common yet very treatable with regular teeth cleaning at home or by a vet. Small breed senior dogs may have a heart murmur indicating a weak heart but luckily there a numerous, effective treatment options. Most health issues are bound to be minor as major problems such as Heartworms are tested and screened for prior to adoption.

Behavioral Overview

Senior dogs typically adapt well to new owners and surroundings. A few dogs that have not been well socialized as puppies and can exhibit submissive behavior along with stress incontinence. Aggressive dogs are screened during the adoption process. And, if you have children, it’s best to mention this during adoption because some senior dogs are fearful of kids.

Tips and Tricks

Senior dogs are a lot of fun and adoptions can be very rewarding. There are many unwanted and even abused dogs that just need a good home. As such, senior dogs will need some time to get used to their new surroundings and introductions with new pets and family members should be staggered, i.e. done one at a time. Senior dogs tend to sleep a lot, so make sure they have somewhere peaceful and comfortable (away from the hustle and bustle of family life) to retreat to when necessary. Shelters are great for providing all the information you need to start a happy new life with your senior pup. Attention should be paid to diet – so any changes in food are done gradually and overfeeding is avoided. As a next step book an appointment with your local vet who can advise you about ongoing preventative care with your new fur baby.


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