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Nov 1, 2022

Senior Pets: Aged to Perfection

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November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month. In honor of this special month, we look at some of the benefits of bringing home a senior companion animal.

Every year, thousands of animals come through Dane County Humane Society’s door. No matter their age, they’re all in search of the same thing: a new, loving home.

This month, we’re celebrating the adopters who have a special heart for senior pets. What makes adopting a senior pet so special? We can offer a few reasons:

Older pets do not have the high-energy needs of their younger counterparts.

Every encounter is new for puppies and kittens, so they tend to explore more and that curiosity can get them into trouble. Younger pets typically need more monitoring and more playtime to help tucker them out.

But for senior pets, Kenzie Korpela, an Admitting Technician with DCHS, says, “With age comes calmer behavior, which means they're not needing as much supervision as kittens (or puppies) and are spending more of their day sleeping, which means more cuddles for the people!”

A senior pet will still be curious about their new surroundings, but it likely will already know there’s the sofa and a bed, and naps would be so comfy there.

What you see is usually what you’ll get.

With senior dogs, Erin Kruckenberg, a Canine Behavior Specialist at DCHS, says, “You can usually tell their personality better when you meet them.”

A puppy or an adolescent dog, on the other hand, is still developing new personality traits as they mature, and sometimes it’s not always what pet parents expect, explains Erin. Some of the traits that come through may require different training.

For senior cats, their personalities, quirks, and habits are already established. “What you see is probably what you’re going to get,” says Kenzie.

Also, when animals are surrendered, we ask the family to fill out an owner support questionnaire so we can learn about the pet’s behavior, likes, and dislikes while in the previous home. Because senior pets have lived longer, they’ve had more time to figure out their preferences. This history provides helpful information to potential adopters, including whether the pet enjoyed living with other animals or if they were good with children.

It’s also important to note that dogs and cats of all ages may show some different characteristics in the shelter setting. For instance, they may be more fearful or shy at the shelter. Once they realize they’re home, senior pets may open up faster to reveal their true personality. If the senior pet is pretty mellow upon meeting them, it’s very likely they’ll remain low-key after they adjust to their new home.

“Obviously, they might have slight personality changes as they settle into your home/routine, but so much of kitten-hood is about learning and developing into the adult they're going to be,” Kenzie says.

Most senior pets have had some training.

When you bring a puppy home, you begin the process of teaching them what behaviors you want to see. The most common practice puppies must be taught is potty training. Then also comes some basic training like come, sit, or down.

With both puppies and kittens, you need to teach them about appropriate play and that human hands are not toys and should not be bitten or attacked.

When you adopt a senior pet, usually someone has already taught the animal some of these basics.

“Most senior dogs have had some training in their life, at least to sit, not jump on counters, try to wait to go outside to potty,” Erin says.

It’s rewarding to adopt a senior pet.

Despite lower adoption fees for senior pets, older animals typically have longer shelter stays as they tend to get passed over for cute and wiggly puppies and kittens. Some senior pets become members of our Lonely Hearts Club and have their adoption fees further reduced, especially if they have any medical issues or have been with us for 30 days or longer.

“It's rewarding to give friendship and comfort to a pet who may be overlooked by other adopters,” says Erin. “It's an honor to support and bond with a pet during such an important part of their lives.”

Senior pets have so much love, cuddles, and companionship to give to their families.

“It's just such a great thing to provide a comfy home for the cat's (or dog’s) final years,” says Kenzie, adding, “to give them a happy and cozy place with people who love them.”

To view companion animals available for adoption, click here.

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