Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adopting Older Pets

Coastal Animal Hospital - Kitty Hawk

Older dogs and cats often face an uphill battle when attempting to be adopted from shelters or individuals. Let’s face it, everyone likes puppy breath and small, furry kittens.

Many people adopt puppies and kittens on impulse because they are so irresistible, which can lead to its own set of problems when reality sets in.

You do not see many lines of people clamoring to adopt a middle aged, border line obese dog or cat, who is sporting an attractive wart or two. But if we look closer we can find definite advantages and benefits to adopting senior pets.

In my mind, the biggest benefit to adopting older pets is that they are, for the most part, already trained. You do not have to go through the months and years of training and the long line of chewed remote controls or shoes, not to mention the near daily episodes of spiking blood pressure due to some behavioral quirk. You have an out of the box trained companion.

Sure, they may not be able to retrieve a beverage from the refrigerator or do CPR, but they more than likely will not eat a hole through sheetrock and let you know when they have to go to the bathroom outside. Most senior dogs and cats do not want to stretch the limits of your sanity or wallet, they simply just want to be near you and be loved.

Another significant advantage is that they make excellent pets for older people. Most people in their 60’s, 70’s or 80’s do not want to or cannot meet the demands of a young, rambunctious puppy or kitten.

There have been numerous scientific studies that conclude that people with pets live longer, have fewer medical issues and report a higher contentment level, than their non pet peers. To be perfectly honest, the advanced age of the pet can be favorable.

There are many human seniors that may desire a pet in their mid 70’s but may not be able to manage one in their late 80’s-not a problem if you adopt a 10 year old dog or cat. Pairing senior pets with human seniors is a win-win scenario, with numerous benefits to both.

There are a few perceived setbacks for adopting older pets, which is evident by the disproportionate amount of older dogs and cats found in shelters all over this country. The most obvious setback is aesthetics. In our culture, we place high value on pretty things.

Most of us don’t look as good as we did at 22 years old…well, the same thing goes for pets. But I bet if you had a choice of which to spend time with you would chose to be a friend with who you are now rather than the 20 year old.

There are definite advantages to experience. Many people are worried about the potential financial burden if their senior pet develops a serious or expensive medical condition.

To be perfectly honest, older pets will not live as long normally as younger pets. We do the best we can with what we have (i.e. what we are able to afford)and when that time comes to let that much loved companion go, I am sure they would be thankful for the months or years of companionship and love they had, that if not for you, they never would have experienced.

Stephen M. Samson, DVM
Coastal Animal Hospital

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