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It Gets Better With Age: 5 Reasons to Adopt a Senior Cat

The next time you're looking to bring a new cat into your life, consider wisdom before youth.

 |  Aug 21st 2013  |   10 Contributions


You're walking through the adoption area at the shelter. The kittens are squealing, rolling around, and being oh so cute. If you need a kitten -- wonderful. I believe it's great to give a cat of any age a home, and so many cats are in need. But look around and consider some of the senior cats that are up for adoption. You may be surprised at what a senior cat can bring into your household.

If you're like me, you've wondered what defines a "senior" cat. According to the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Society of Feline Practitioners, senior cat designation can begin from 7 to 11 years of age. I admit this surprised me. I'd thought of seniors being older. Suffice it to say, if senior status starts at age seven, there are plenty of senior cats out there looking for a home.

So, why adopt a senior cat? Well, you're giving them a new chance at quality life, in more ways than one. Here are five great reasons to adopt a senior cat: 

1. Senior cats may be overlooked for adoption

For some reason, people out shopping for a cat tend to gravitate to the kittens. I'm completely in favor of giving any cat a home -- kittens or oldsters or anything in between. But older cats can get overlooked. This, perhaps, is one of the biggest reasons to consider a senior cat for your household. In my years of volunteering at shelters, the number of older cats for adoption always exceeded the number of kittens available. I love kittens -- who doesn't? -- and they can surely bring fun new energy to your household. But an older cat brings maturity, and wisdom. And some older cats have plenty of energy as well, if that's what you're looking for.

2. Senior cats may be able to teach younger, incoming cats

Many people hesitate to bring in a younger cat with a senior, claiming that the senior is set in his ways, and that a younger cat will upset the household balance. I don't believe that this is always true. In general, most feline newcomers into my household, over the years, have been adult cats and a few senior cats. If care is taken with introduction, cats of any ages can usually learn to get along. Take your time with these, and work with the personalities of the cats involved. For example, if you're introducing a senior into your household and you have another cat who is easily stressed or who has a difficult time with change, make sure that cat gets plenty of gentle and calming attention from you. Remember, take your time. Some intros go quickly, and some take longer.

Gray cat closeup by Shutterstock.com

3. Senior cats have fully formed personalities

A senior cat comes to you with an observable personality. You know what you are getting. And oh, the stories they have. If you're lucky enough to uncover these stories, you're doing your cat a great favor. What greater satisfaction is there than giving a senior a wonderful last part of life, even if he or she came from adversity? Yes, it takes courage on our part. We might not have this cat as long as we would like to have her. But you've given a great gift to this cat -- the possibility of stable, final years after what may have been a tumultuous path (or at least a life full of change) for your cat. 

4. In a senior cat, If health problems have manifested, you know what you are getting

Obviously, health problems can present in a cat of any age. And many of us (me too -- guilty!) would prefer to deny that our cats may have health problems rather than facing them. It sucks, let's face it, when illness manifests with a cat you've shared many years with. But here's a way of looking at this glass (or cat bowl?) half full instead of half empty. If you adopt a senior cat (or a special needs cat, for that matter), any health issues may already be diagnosed and on the table. You're going into the relationship fully prepared for what the cat needs from you. I think it takes a special person to adopt a cat that you know you may have for a shorter time than you'd like. It may be the ultimate gift of generosity. So consider this if you're looking for a senior cat. There are advantages to being informed.

Four-cat pile on the bed. Karma, my most senior senior, is 16 years old and is wearing the cone to keep her from scratching at a recent surgical incision.

5. Senior cats may be lower key, which might be just what you're looking for!

If you're wanting a staid and relatively less active nature, then a senior cat may be for you. Most senior cats don't run around like kittens. But in the feline world, there's an exception for everything, and I've seen some very active and engaged older cats who can almost keep up with kittens. My 15-year-old Karma gets just as excited as the kitten when I bring out the Feline Fisher toy. She may not run as fast as Jamie Bluebell, but she's having just as much fun. Play with your senior cat regularly! Nothing keeps a cat young and engaged like regular playtime and fun.

Have you ever adopted a senior cat? How did it work out? Share your experiences in the comments!

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