Moses and Harry realize how fortunate they are. But if
they do, they’re not talking.
and Harry are cats, 11 and 13, respectively, who are
living comfortably in the New York apartment of Maria
special about these two felines is that they were both
11 years old when they were adopted by Pfeiffer and her
cats and older dogs — typically animals past age 6 or
7, say the animal welfare experts we talked to — are
often deemed unadoptable simply because of age. So they
are left to languish in shelters. But older pets can be
a joy, Pfeiffer says. "These cats need maybe less
care than younger cats," she says. "They’re
still youthful. Lovable. It’s not like they get old
and grouchy. They might have an attitude, but it’s the
same attitude they had as a kitten."
have misconceptions about older animals. Bunny Hofberg
hears it all the time.
founded Frankie’s Feline Fund (frankiesfelinefund.org),
a New York-based not-for-profit that rescues, fosters
and finds homes for senior cats. To that end, she does a
lot of adoption events.
must think I’m deaf because they say things out loud
that they must think I can’t hear," Hofberg says.
"‘Oh, you can’t bond with older cats.’ ‘You
have to get a kitten.’ All these ridiculous things.
That’s so not true."
story is the same with dogs.
Kachnic is president of The Grey Muzzle Organization (greymuzzle.org),
a North Carolina charity that provides grants and
resources to rescues, shelters and other nonprofits that
aid with adoptions, medical screening or hospice care,
among other programs, for older dogs.
trying to educate people on the benefits of adopting
senior dogs," she says. "Often times a senior
dog is a much better fit than a puppy."
no need for housebreaking, and owners bypass the
constant supervision that a kitten or puppy requires.
though, if someone is looking for an exercise companion,
a senior dog may not be a good fit.
out there: Petfinder (petfinder.com), an online adoption
site that works with 13,000 shelters, has nearly 340,000
pets available for adoption, says Sara Kent, the
organization’s director of shelter outreach. Of that
number, 17,500, about 5 percent, are senior animals.
would say the seniors are definitely the most difficult
to find homes for," Kent says. "We just
recently completed a survey of members and asked what is
the hardest type of pet to re-home. The largest
percentage, 28, said seniors were the hardest."
more, a lot of senior dogs and cats never get as far as
the adoption listings, because many shelters stop trying
to find them homes.
A big focus of people considering a senior pet revolves
around the issues that accompany advanced age.
older dog or cat may be halfway through its life span,
and that means an owner will probably have to say
hate to use a cliche," Hofberg says, "but it’s
the glass half-empty versus half-full idea. Instead of
looking at the negative side, look at it as how much you
can give each other in the time you have together."
Paschall, of Palatine, Ill., agrees; she is currently
fostering Tootsie, a 7-year-old beagle, her 32nd foster
you adopt a senior, you know they have less time,"
Paschall says. "For us, we keep track of our former
foster dogs. … When we hear that one of them has
passed on, yes, it’s sad. But then, they had a good
last few years. You know that dog (had) limited options.
And I really think they’re more grateful."
vet bill concern: Older animals obviously face the
illnesses of advanced age sooner than puppies or
kittens, so prospective owners have to be prepared for
that. But, as Pfeiffer notes, "You can adopt a cat
at age 1, and they could have a serious problem and be
gone in a year."
Kent adds that vet bills are a reality for any owner,
whatever the animal’s age.
costs may come sooner with a senior pet," she
acknowledges, "but any pet is likely to have those
costs at some time in their life."
never live long enough," says Arlene Burkhardt, of
Bloomingdale, Ill. She and her husband, Kurt, have
fostered dozens of older dogs and have given a permanent
home to some, too. "We lost our dog last week; she
was (an older) dog we fostered and then adopted. She was
11; we had her only a year and a half. … You know you’ll
have less time with them, but the love they give you is
adopted a lot of seniors myself," Kent adds,
"some you’d expect would be around only a short
time. But by giving them great vet care, you can have
them for years and years."
in: There’s an adjustment period when you bring any
pet into your home. Older animals that have a history of
living with a family may settle in more quickly than a
puppy or kitten.
so little aggravation," Kent says.
has had four senior cats and says they all made a smooth
you bring any cat in, you … generally keep them in a
smaller space at first so they can get used to the new
surroundings," she says. "Once they’re there
and using their box, eating the food you leave out,
there’s really no adjustment."
you do it? If you think a senior pet might be a good
match, talk to your vet or the professionals at a local
fostering an animal before adopting it. Grey Muzzle has
extensive and outstanding resources regarding older dogs
on its website. You can also sign up for the group’s
not to think about age," Hofberg says. "Just
meet the (pet). If it’s the personality you are
looking for, just adopt it. I’d rather have a little
time with a great animal than years and years with one
that’s not what I wanted."