We’re nearing the end of November and I’ve almost run out of time to write a post about “Adopt a Senior Pet” Month. I feel the plight of homeless older animals is an important but mostly unacknowledged problem.
I seem to be a natural cat attractor and throughout my life I’ve taken in many homeless kittens and “teenage” cats, but never any more than a few years old. I guess homeless cats don’t live to a ripe old age very often.
As a pharmacist I have known many elderly people whose pets have become the closest family they have. I often idly wondered what happened to their loving companions when they had to move in with family, or into a nursing home, or passed away. But I never stopped to really think about it. I convinced myself that I do my part, after all I never have fewer than 3 adopted pets. I sometimes feel like I’m my own (definitely NOT for profit) animal shelter.
This Spring my aunt made the difficult decision to move in with her son and his family. At the time she had 3 cats that she had rescued (I think it must run in the family). Circumstances dictated that she was only able to take one of her feline friends with her. The other two would have to find other accommodations. She was overwhelmed by the task of trying to find someone who would take in her pets.
I was amazed to learn that so few people would even entertain the thought of adopting an older pet. Everyone wants a kitten or a puppy. Sure, an older pet is set in their ways, but they’re already house trained and acclimated to people (unlike that kitten/puppy).
My poor aunt was to the point of having to consider having her precious companions “put down” because she could find no one to take them in. But on learning of her predicament, I welcomed her beloved pets into our home and added them to our menagerie.
Older cats come with a lot of ingrained habits and eccentricities that I wasn’t expecting. For the first month our 2 adoptees, Pumpkin and Peek-a-Boo, lived in my bedroom closet and I think Peek-a-Boo always will. But Pumpkin has become a real member of the family. She sits in our laps, sleeps in our bed, and even loves our children, all on HER terms of course. What would you expect? Her back was obviously badly injured in her youth (long before my aunt took her in). So she doesn’t like to be touched anywhere near her tail and she is consequently very jumpy and untrusting. But as long as you respect her boundaries, she loves you, as much as she is able to, with purrs, and “kisses” and head bumps. She and I even share our morning coffee every day. Well, I have coffee and she has a dish of half and half, but we have it together. And if I forget, she lets me know!
So it you’re thinking about getting a pet, maybe you could find it in your heart to adopt an older one. Even though you won’t have it for as long, the love it brings into your heart will last a lifetime.