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Senior Pet Awareness Month - The Benefits and Misconceptions of Adopting a Senior Pet



November 17, 2022

Photo by Alexander Dummer

Photo by Alexander Dummer

November is Senior Pet Awareness month. We dedicate this month to our senior pets because they are often overlooked in shelters and rescues time and time again. Senior pets are more likely to be euthanized in a shelter than any other pet, simply because of the negative stigma that comes with old age. Senior Pet Awareness Month was started by The ASPCA and Petfinder. This month-long holiday was created to bring much-needed attention to our very deserving senior pets. A dog is considered ‘senior’ when they reach the ages of  7-11 years old, based on its size. However, just because the dog is 7-11 years old does not make them unworthy of finding a forever home. Senior pets come with more benefits than not and it is because of their age. With age comes maturity and intelligence and as dogs and cats get older they just get better, making them the perfect addition to almost any type of home.

According to the Best Friends Animals Society, 62% of pet adopters consider an animal's temperament in their search for a furry bestie. 62% also say they prefer a mild/calm temperament in their future pet. By those answers alone it sounds like a senior pet would be their perfect match. Senior pets are known to have milder temperaments. Although adopting a younger pup or kitten is tempting because of their small baby bellies and fresh look, they come with a ton of energy that requires a lot of monitoring. For a busy family, a puppy or a kitten is not always the best choice. In the Best Friends Animal Society’s research, they also found that 73% of pet adopters said that they consider compatibility with kids when adopting a pet. Senior pets are more likely to be patient and gentle with kids than new puppy is. Senior pets come already trained with an understanding of basic commands which makes them a much better-behaved furry family members. However, when it comes to kids and pets interacting it is up to the parents to teach their kids how to properly interact with their dogs and cats. Another benefit to welcoming a senior pet into your home is knowing that you are saving a precious life. 

On average senior pets spend up to four times longer in shelters than any other animal. A senior pet has a 25% adoption rate in a shelter while the general population has a 60% adoption rate. The longer a pet spends in a shelter the chances of adoption decrease with each day and their chances of euthanization increase if they are in a kill shelter. Therefore, knowing that you can make a difference and give a senior pet a second chance at life is one reason alone to consider during your adoption search. After all, senior pets can make an amazing addition to your home and they deserve the chance to show you that.

Senior pets, unfortunately, come with many misconceptions due to their age which in turn labels them as “less adoptable”.  A common myth about senior pets is that they are “not as fun or playful”. Well, that could not be further from the truth. Many senior pets still love to play and will typically follow your lead. If you make time for play then they will too. Ensuring your pet has enough play and exercise time is crucial to improving their lifespan and overall health. Many people believe that it is difficult to create a bond with a senior pet, however, bonding with a senior pet is extremely likely. Pets know when they have been saved and because you gave them another chance at life, the bond with a senior pet is unlike anything else. Another common misconception is that senior pets are “set in their ways” and “difficult to train”. While that can be true it is not impossible to reverse. Animals love routine so you would be surprised at how quickly a senior pet can adapt to new circumstances. A big reason why many pet adopters pass up senior pets is they believe they won’t have much time with them. The thing is, life can be unpredictable. A young pet could get sick and pass away while another pet could live well past its expected life expectancy, you just never know. My advice is if you bond with the animal don’t turn them down because of its age. Senior pets who are in shelters have likely not had an easy life, so why not make the time they have left the absolute best? 

Finally, a common myth is that it is hard to bring new pets into your home if you have a senior pet. While many people believe this myth out of respect for their older pets, it is not always true. Anytime you bring a new animal into the home you want to respect your original pet’s needs and space. Nonetheless, bringing a younger pup into the home can inject energy into your senior pet. For example, my family dog, Mason, is 11 years old and we recently brought a new puppy, Milo, into our home. Of course, we were nervous about how Mason would react but we followed the recommended practices for introducing a new pet into our home and Mason could not be happier. Milo has brought a new-found energy out of Mason- it is like he is a puppy again.

Choosing to adopt a new furry friend is an exciting adventure. Choosing to adopt a senior pet can be so incredibly rewarding and an experience to remember. During November, especially, I want to encourage you to adopt a senior pet. You can choose to go to a local shelter or rescue to find your perfect match. Pawtocol has partnered with quite a few shelters and rescues across the country. You can view the list here to see if any are in your area. Each partner has dogs and/or cats looking for forever families. When searching for your perfect match, consider one of Pawtocol’s partners.