Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adopting An Older Pet

Author, Jan Casey

What constitutes an older pet? Age has no special definition. Think of people you know. I have a friend who is barely 50 and lives life like she’s 100. I have another friend in her 60’s who is an accomplished tri-athlete. Does the number make a difference?
Very little. Likewise with our pets. Higgins was 15 when he starred in the
title role of the movie Benji. Pal, the rough collie born in 1940 and
star of the Lassie movies of the 1940s, also starred in the pilots for
the Lassie television series in 1954. Animal stars including Eddie from
the Frasier television series and Morris the Cat from the 9 Lives Cat
Food commercials were both older when adopted from shelters. All of these
“older” pets certainly defy the notion that age equals useless. My goldador, Abby,
was six before she settled enough to become a hospital visitation dog with the
HABIT program through the University of Tennessee Veterinary Hospital program.
She made a positive difference in so many lives, even as an older pet.

Why are older pets often overlooked at adoption time? Many people have misconceptions that cause them to miss the chance to adopt what could be the pet of a lifetime. Some think the pet must have some type of problem, either with health or behavior. Older pets end up in shelters for many reasons. Seniors who must move to retirement homes are not allowed to bring along their pets and family members are often unable or unwilling to take them. My sister-in-law recently acquired an older golden retriever because the dog’s previous owners had a child who developed severe
allergies to the dog. Economic crises have cut into some people’s budgets so
deeply, feeding a pet is no longer an option. These pets were loved and cared
for by their previous owners, they are pets who did not present any problems.
They are healthy and loving, only in need of someone with whom to share their

Older pets have so many pluses. Most are housetrained or litter box trained. Think – no standing in the rain, waiting for the young one to decide that it really is okay to “water the grass” even if it’s already wet. No surprises on size. You know how large your
dog or cat will be when he grows up because he is already full grown! Older
pets have their personalities established. You’ll know if the pet will like
children/other animals/people. With young pets, there are destructive behaviors
which must be retrained. I think everyone who has encountered a puppy knows the
truth about those razor sharp little teeth used to shred not only prized
possessions, but human flesh as well. Older pets generally have “respect” for
your belongings. Younger dogs want to walk at a speed that would most likely
get you a ticket in a school zone. Older dogs are usually quite happy to stroll
and enjoy the ambience of smells left on the ground earlier in the day.
Snuggling on the couch has to be the ultimate achievement of the older pet.
Those youngsters just don’t seem to get the concept of relaxing the way the
more mature pet does.

There will certainly be some extra needs for the older pet. Healthy pet checkups twice a year for older pets are recognized as good practice. A special diet with lower fat and
possible supplements like arthritis medicines are to be expected. Walks may
need to be a little shorter and less intense. Older pets may sleep a little
more and getting out of bed might take some extra time. New tricks can still be
learned, you might just have to help the pet unlearn some previous behaviors
first. The tradeoff is a healthier you – lower blood pressure, better mental
state, more exercise, and increased social contacts.

Jan Casey is a reward-based trainer in Florida
at Courteous Canine, Inc.
and owner of Smiles and Wags Pet Services Mrs. Casey is a member of the Association of Animal
Behavior Professionals.
Mrs. Casey is a columnist for the Cookeville,
Herald-Citizen Pet Pages and Kid's Korner . This column was originally written for the Herald-Citizen

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree! You hit the nail on the head with this one. Thanks so much for posting!