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Anyone who's ever volunteered at a cat shelter knows that kittens are the easiest to find homes for. Most people seem naturally drawn to the playful charm of these active little furballs, so easy to pick up and cuddle. Older cats, and specifically senior cats, aged eight years or older, tend to wait much longer for their forever homes.Photo Credit: Jack's Cat Shack
While it's not always easy to determine the exact age of cats by looking at them, there are telltale visual cues. Senior cats, especially the ones in their mid-teens or older, are often slightly thinner, have less lustrous coats and may not have all their teeth. Their gait may be less flexible or flowing, and they are overall less active compared to younger cats. It's little wonder they don't shine out when potential adopters show up.
Fortunately, some cat lovers do notice the elderly residents of shelters. In a recent thread on our forums, members shared touching stories about adopting senior cats, whether from a shelter or rescued off the streets. One member, Sandy Parker, known on TheCatSite.com by her username jackscatshack, makes a point of adopting senior cats in need from the local Humane Society shelter. She has built a special enclosure for these fortunate kitties, running Jack's Cat Shack as a retirement community for aging cats in Tucson, Arizona.
The Benefits of Adopting A Senior Cat
If you plan on adopting a new feline member into your family, please consider giving these quiet cats a chance. Here are some reasons to consider:
1. Older cats have established personalities
A senior cat has a fully-developed personality. With a kitten, it's very hard to tell if the playful little critter will end up being a recluse or a love bug; an aggressive alpha cat or a low-keyed skittish one; suitable for life with other cats, or a loner; and so on. These traits usually develop and set in during the cat's first years. By opting to adopt a senior cat, and following the advice of shelter workers and volunteers, you have a better chance of getting a cat suitable to you and your lifestyle.
2. Older cats are more laid back
A kitten, or even a young cat, is a bundle of seemingly endless energy. Many first-time owners are overwhelmed by kittenish behavior, having to deal with a playful kitty that sinks tiny claws and teeth into every conceivable material, owner's hands and feet not excluded.
With an older cat, you can expect far mellower behavior. Many senior cats are content with a restful nap in a warm spot, preferably near their humans, just passing the time spreading that positive calm feline aura around your home.
This is how Sandy from Jack's Shack describes her seniors:
Most want to just lay around, eat and sleep. Some will surprise you and get a little playful now and then and most love to be pet but not to be picked up or carried around. But you can see the joy on their face when they finally realize they are in a safe place with plenty of food and affection if they want it.
3. Senior cats are well adjusted to living at home
Older cats are often set in their ways, and that can be a positive thing. They know how to use the litterbox and scratching post, and are more likely to follow your house rules and routines than a rambunctious kitten would. Aging bodies may also make the cat less inclined to jump on high counters and dining tables (but do keep an eye out for signs of arthritis, which require veterinary attention).
And don't think you can't teach an old cat new tricks either. Our member Nekochan shared an interesting story about Sneakers, a senior cat adopted from a neighbor at the age of ten. Through love and patience, she had not only helped Sneakers lose weight but also taught her how to stop biting when petted.
4. Senior cats can have a calming effect on children
For families with children, an older cat may be far more suitable than a kitten, allowing parents to introduce kids to the etiquette of human-feline interactions with a stable and relaxed cat. The senior cat can be a wonderful companion, soothing the child and gently accepting hours of close interactions, lending a willing, if aging, ear to many a secret.
5. Adopting a senior makes a difference
Last, but not least, when you adopt a senior cat, you know in your heart that you have truly rescued a cat in need. These cats are often surrendered to the shelter when their previous owner had passed away. They've spent many years in a loving home, and now circumstances beyond their control or comprehension thrust them in a small cage in a strange and scary place.
They need your help and without you, they are likely to either be put to sleep or spend the remaining of their days caged and lonely.