I’ve brought animals of all ages into my life and home — from a one week old kitten abandoned at the front door of my veterinary clinic to an ancient black lab who I wasn’t sure was going to make it through his first night under my care (he ended up living for several more years … he was a tough old bird).
While I’ve loved having puppies and kittens around, there is something special about adopting an older animal. Here are my Top Five Reasons to Adopt an Older Pet:
There are Fewer Surprises
We’ve all heard the stories. Someone adopts a puppy after being told that he is most likely a Beagle/Schnauzer cross that won’t top 25 pounds only to be left with a 65 pounder that looks suspiciously like a Walker Hound/Airedale mix a year later. Even more important than size is behavior. That precocious little kitten that is so charming at eight weeks of age may turn into a feline terrorist as she ages. While an older pet’s personality may shift slightly after moving to a new home, big changes are unlikely. When adopting an adult dog or cat, you can be much more confident that what you see is what you are going to get.
Older Pets are Not as Demanding
Adopting a puppy or kitten is not for the fainthearted. Helping them mature into well socialized members of the family takes a lot of time and effort. It is safest to assume that you will need to teach them everything they need know — how to walk on a leash, where not to poop, where to scratch, what not to eat — you get the idea. Older pets already have a lot of experience under their belts, so to speak. Sure, you’ll need to fine tune things a bit, but chances are at least some of the basics have been covered. Adult dogs and cats also tend to be calmer and can be left on their own for longer periods of time than can youngsters, which is certainly a benefit with the busy lifestyles that many owners have these days.
Older Pets are Cheaper
Much of the cost of adopting a new pet occurs early on in the relationship, particularly with regards to veterinary care. Puppies and kittens need a series of vaccinations, multiple dewormings, and often spay/neuter surgeries as well. Since most of this has already been taken care of with an adult animal, initial veterinary expenses are generally much lower. Also, many humane societies assign adoption fees on a sliding scale; puppies and kittens are in higher demand and so cost more to adopt for the benefit of the “less desirable” animals that may take longer to rehome.
Older Pets are Not Damaged Goods
The reasons why an older dog or cat may be up for adoption are myriad, but in most cases the fault (if there is any) lies with the previous owner and not with the pet. These days, dogs and cats in reputable shelters go through a thorough evaluation, usually including some type of temperament testing, so any quirks they might have are identified. Matching an adult pet to a compatible owner has never been easier.
Many older dogs and cats have seen how tough life can be, and when they finally make their way into a devoted home, they spend the rest of their days adoring the people who provide it. What more can I say?
Dr. Jennifer Coates