November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month—here's why older animals make great companions.

By Karen Asp
November 06, 2019

There's no denying that puppies and kittens can make adorable additions to your household, but before you invest in a youthful new pet, you should also consider that older animals need your love, too. Before you bring any pet home, no matter what age they are, there are a few things to consider to ensure you make the best choice for your family. Spend time with the pet you like and ask: Has the pet been in a foster home? Are there separation anxiety issues when she’s left alone? Does she get along with other animals and young kids? What health or behavioral issues does the pet have? Does the shelter or rescue organization give financial assistance if the pet develops health issues?

In honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, we have the top three reasons why you should think about welcoming an older cat or dog into your home.

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1. Senior Dogs and Cats Know the Basics

The senior years start between ages 6 and 8 for dogs and 10 and 12 for cats. Older pets are often put up for adoption because of a shift in their family situation—perhaps a death or a move to a residence that doesn’t allow animals. Because they’ve lived in a home before, it’s a good bet they’re housebroken or litter box trained, says Jennifer L. Pease, president and co-founder of Senior Pet and Animal Rescue in Pittsburgh. Senior dogs also likely know basic commands, walk well on leashes, have outgrown puppy behaviors, and focus well, which means they learn quickly. Other possible pluses: You won’t have to harness the energy of a puppy or kitten, and they’re more likely to spend more time relaxing with you.

2. Their Personalities Are Developed

The personality (and size) of an older dog or cat is already set, so you have more clear indicators about whether they’ll be a good fit for your family and lifestyle, Pease says. For instance, you’ll know if a dog is a barker or does well in a crate or if a cat is affectionate or aloof. 

Related: How to Find the Best Pet Sitting Service, Based on Your Pet's Personality Type

3. Older Pets Still Form Strong Bonds

Just because you’re getting a pet at an older age doesn’t mean your bond won’t be as deep, says Sherri Franklin, founder and CEO of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco. The aging process can be scary and confusing to animals; they’ll appreciate you giving them comfort, protection, and love.

Related: 3 Reasons Playing with Your Pet Is So Important

Some shelters and rescues focus solely on rescuing and rehoming senior pets. A few around the country include: Forever Loved Pet Sanctuary (Scottsdale, AZ); Mutville Senior Dog Rescue (San Francisco, CA); Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary (Mt. Juliet, TN); Old Dog Haven (Oak Harbor, WA); The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs (Cleveland, OH); Senior Dog Sanctuary (Severn, MD); Senior Pet and Animal Rescue (Pittsburgh, PA); St. Louis Senior Dog Project (St. Louis, MO), or search "senior" in the age category on the Petfinder website.

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