November Is Adopt A Senior Pet Month

Are you considering adding a pet to your household? If so, please consider adopting or fostering a senior pet from your local shelter or rescue. November is National Adopt A Senior Pet Month, which is right up our alley! We here at Leave No Paws Behind are an all foster based rescue, specializing in seniors and animals with special medical needs. We love our seniors, and currently have over 50 rescues living with our foster network. Seniors (particularly those with medical needs) tend to be the hardest to place, and spend the most time in the shelter or rescue before finding loving homes. So why do we think seniors are so great? We put this post together to share exactly why we think older pets are AMAZING!

When it comes to adopting a pet, there are a lot of considerations that need to be made. Time (both time to spend with a pet, and lifespan of the pet), type of animal, space, resources, exercise needs, training, the list goes on. It is a big decision when you decide to share your life with an animal. When considering a pet, we put this post together to share some of the benefits and advantages to bringing home a senior animal. Many of these apply to both older cats and dogs.

What is a senior pet? In general, cats and smaller dogs over 7 years of age are considered seniors. Larger breed dogs often have shorter lifespans, and may be considered senior at 5-6 years of age. Even if they are considered "senior", many senior pets can live to be 17+ years of age. Tully, the terrier in the above picture, was with us until he was almost 18. Our Great Dane lived to be 9 1/2 years old. Size really does play a part in determining senior status.

What are some of the advantages to adopting, rescuing, or fostering a senior? Here is just a few of them in no particular order:

  • In many cases, senior dogs have lived in homes and may already know some commands. Seniors wind up in shelters for a multitude of reasons, death in the family, a new baby, moving, lost a job, and many others. These dogs have been part of families, and as such, may already know how to walk on a leash, sit on command, or give you a high five.
  • Compared to younger animals, including puppies and kittens, senior pets will be calmer, have less energy, and are less destructive. Senior dogs have already been through the terrible teething stage, saving your favorite sneakers and table legs. Senior cats have hopefully outgrown the need to shred your couch. The energy level has dropped too. No more frantic hallway racing, playing tug with the bottom of your pants, or tripping you up as you enter the kitchen.
  • Senior pets are often overlooked in the shelter. They are passed up for younger animals, puppies and kittens. With that being the case, seniors are euthanized at a higher rate. If you do adopt a senior from the shelter, you could be saving 2 lives. The pet you rescue opens up a space for another animal at the shelter or rescue.
  • Many senior dogs are already house trained. Again, these pets have spent time in other homes, and have already been house trained, saving you a lot of work, sleepless nights and frustration that comes with house training a new puppy.
  • What you see is what you get. In most cases (with the exception of abuse cases) their temperament is stable and established. You know exactly how big it will get. At a meet and greet you can see if they like kids or another pet you may already have. 
  • The shelter or a breed specific rescue is a great place to go if you are looking for a specific type of pet. They have lots of types of animals that can fill any requests you may have.
  • Costs may be cheaper. Adoption fees at a shelter for senior pets are often less than for a puppy or kitten. And if you are a senior citizen adopting a senior pet, it may be even less expensive! Along with that, seniors are already full grown, so you only need to buy 1 size collar, bowl, bed, crate, etc. They won't grow out of anything. 
  • Speaking of senior citizens, older pets make great companions for older adults. They have less energy, and their exercise requirements are reduced. They don't have all that puppy energy that requires an hour walk or a run in the park. They will be content to just relax with you at home. They provide instant companionship and comfort, all at a slower speed.
  • You absolutely CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Bring home an older dog and sign him up for an obedience class. It's a great time to bond with your new friend
  • Gratitude. Senior animals rescued from the shelter just seem to know who gave them a loving, safe home.

There are of course a couple of downsides to adopting a senior. They may have a shorter time with us compared to a younger dog or cat. They may also have increased medical needs. If those are a concern, please consider fostering for a senior based rescue. Many of them will cover medical costs for the life of the pet while it is in foster. 

I asked some of our fosters for their thoughts on rescuing older pets. Here are a few of their quotes:

Sandra F: "They like to sleep in most cases. Your furniture stays in tact! No chewing or destroying things as they are no longer puppies. They love to cuddle and be loved. Do not fear the blind or deaf. Dogs lead with their noses and thrive on the sense of smell."

Gina F: "I have Pat, my first senior foster but not senior animal. Pat came in a little grumpy, but who wouldn't be with all he had been through. Now he's gotten more comfortable with us. He loves his food and snacks. He was potty trained already, so that made it easy. In fact, he was so trained I walked out the door and Pat followed behind me, went to the lawn peed, then went right back in the house."

Meghan T: "We are currently fostering 2 seniors and have 1 of our own. All rescue dogs are wonderful, but seniors and special needs dogs have a special place in our hearts. We volunteer at the wonderful, no kill, Seal Beach Animal Care Center and see first hand that the senior dogs have a tougher time finding their forever home. Seniors are wonderful, they have manners and are calmer than younger dogs. They love to snuggle and just adore their humans. We have a 5 month old daughter and our LNPB foster, Lady, just adores her."

And from Carol S: "Everyone and every living being gets old and we all need love and care. It's great to give love to a senior dog and not have to worry about providing medical which can be really expensive. It's a win win situation. I really wish more seniors would foster/adopt older dogs."

If you are thinking about adding a pet to your home, I hope this post leads you to considering a senior pet from your local shelter or rescue, or volunteering to foster for a senior based rescue. The importance of fostering can't be understated. Fostering saves lives. Become a lifesaver today, and let them know their life matters! If you are in the Los Angeles area, we have several rescues that are looking for loving fosters. Please click here to see them!