Conscious Cat

June 6, 2011 38 Comments

The joys of adopting an older cat

Posted by Ingrid

Buckley at the Middleburg Animal Hospital

June is Adopt-a-Cat month. It’s also kitten season, and shelters across the country are filled with thousands of adorable kittens looking for homes. Older cats are often overlooked, but never more so than during kitten season.

In my years of working with cats, I’ve always been drawn to older cats, especially the really old ones with their graying muzzles and eyes filled with the wisdom of the world.  My own experience of adopting an older cat came with Buckley, who was most likely somewhere between eight and ten years old when I fell in love with her.   Even though she was only with me for three short years, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single moment. 

I adore my two girls who are barely  more than kittens. I adopted Allegra a little over a year ago, when she was seven months old, and I adopted Ruby less than two months ago at nine months of age. I wouldn’t trade the experience of watching Allegra grow into a beautiful young lady these past twelve months, or Ruby’s joyful kitten exuberance for the last two for anything,  but there were times, especially after Amber died, when I thought back fondly to the many joys of living with an older cat. 

When adopting a senior cat, you avoid the kitten craziness phase.  While it’s fun to watch a kitten play and race through the house, remember that the playing and racing can happen at all hours, including at 3am, when you want to sleep.  Additionally, kittens can be hard on your home furnishings.  To a kitten, the whole world is a toy, which can lead to the destruction of anything from carpets to furniture to favorite family heirlooms. 

A senior cat is already spayed or neutered, and in most cases, litter box trained.  He will most likely be current on all vaccinations, and may even come with a complete health history. 

With a senior cat, what you see is, for the most part, what you get when it comes to temperament and personality.  One caveat:  if you meet your potential older family member in a shelter setting, make some allowance for the fact that the cat may be stressed or frightened.  Ask to spend some time with the cat in a quiet area, if possible, to get a better sense of her true personality.  

A senior cat can be a wonderful choice for senior citizens who might hesitate to adopt a cat because they’re afraid the cat might outlive them.  Older cats often wind up in shelters because their owners died, and there were no relatives or friends who would give them a new home.  Bringing a senior cat whose owners died and a senior citizen looking for a feline companion together could be a match made in heaven. 

A senior, or at least slightly older, cat could be a better choice for a family with young children than a kitten.  Kittens are fragile, their tiny bodies can be easily crushed or injured, and their sharp teeth and claws may inadvertently hurt small children. 

A senior cat may make a better companion for an older cat who lost her companion.  Senior cats are used to the more gentle energy of a mature cat, and a kitten’s high energy and constant motion can be aggravating and stressful for them. 

Consider adopting a senior cat with special needs.  Diabetic cats, cats with missing limbs or eyes, and cats with special medical needs all come with the same wonderful personalities as healthy cats, and they tend to be incredibly grateful for being adopted.  Make sure you understand the costs involved in caring for a special needs cat before making an adoption decision. 

Have you ever adopted an older cat? Share your story in a comment!

Photo of Buckley when she was still my office cat at the animal hospital

You may also enjoy reading:

Keeping your single cat happy

Caring for your aging cat

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38 Responses to “The joys of adopting an older cat”

  1. Nancy Ing says:

    About 2 years ago, I adopted an 8-year old kitty cat for my aging parents. She is wonderful and my Mom named her Frisky. My Mom, 89 years old, suffers from dementia and my Father, 90-years old has Parkinsons disease and he whistles for Frisky like she was a dog.

    Frisky awoke in me a love of cats. So, I recently (1/15/11) adopted a 6-year old cat for myself. She is so sweet and a wonderful companion. Her name is Tessa.

    Both of these adoptions have been wonderful for me and my family. I would strongly recommend adopting an older cat.

    Nancy

    • Ingrid says:

      Thanks for sharing your stories, Nancy. It sounds like Frisky is bringing a lot of joy to your parents’ lives. Your Tessa sounds wonderful.

  2. I have had cats since 1994 and have never had a kitten! All of my cats have been rescued and ranged in age from 1.5 to 12 years old. I too, have an affinity for older cats. They command my respect. My first cat was found on the streets of Manhattan, and the rest I had adopted from shelters or rescue organizations in NY. Perhaps one day I’ll take home a kitten (or a golden retriever!) but for now I am thrilled with adult cats.

    • Ingrid says:

      There is something about these older cats that does command respect, isn’t there, Leslie? I find that especially when you don’t really know all they’ve been through – you just know that it’s been a lot, and not all of it good, and yet, they haven’t lost their capacity to bring love and joy.

  3. Dawn says:

    I’ve never adopted a senoir cat, but I definitely will some day. My two young girls came into my life somewhat unexpectedly, and since they could live 20+ years that will bring me WELL into my 60′s! When I do adopt another cat it will definitely be a senior.

  4. Kit says:

    I recently lost my old guy after 15 years together. (He was 16.) I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll ever adopt another cat (so many complex reasons, pro and con) but if I do, I’m fairly certain it would be an older cat. I satisfied my urge for kitten raising years ago with a roommate’s kitten and that was great fun, but I’d much rather have the quiet, steady companionship of an older cat.

  5. Harry says:

    Almost 6 years ago we brought home a former barn cat, because we had adopted one of her kittens a few months prior and we felt sorry that clearly no one was going to adopt mom. Vickie was somewhere between 2 and 6 years old… she hid in our basement for months, and on the rare occasions when she would venture up the stairs to the kitchen, we had to whisper and avoid eye contact or she’d rush back to her safe place. It took almost 3 years, but our little throwaway cat has been the most rewarding of any rescue experience we’ve had – she now sleeps on the bed, keeps us company all of the time, and will even stand, sometimes sit, on my wife’s lap. She loves to be brushed, and has blossomed so much that you’d never know what she had been. She’ll start purring if you so much as look at her now. When she looks at us and practically smiles, we can tell how thankful she is to have been rescued. We’re very glad to have rescued an adult cat, even though it didn’t start out as a particularly positive experience, and we’ll always adopt adults from now on.

    • Ingrid says:

      Thanks for sharing Vickie’s story, Harry. Since I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her, I can attest to the fact that you would never know that she had such a challenging background. It’s so wonderful to see a cat with her background really come into her own.

  6. Candace says:

    I adopted Sophia from Petsmart.The shelter estimated she was about 5 years old. She was in a cage with kittens, and she was calm and gentle with them. In the 3 weeks she was there, kittens came and went, but she stayed, until I couldn’t stand it any longer, and she came home with me. I only had the blessing of her love for 3 years, but she was probably the best cat I’ve ever had.

  7. Mary S. says:

    I’ve adopted 2 older, special needs cats and they brought so much joy to my life. Both were hospice cats. RT surprised us all and lived for 4 wonderful years and blossomed into a joyful, beautiful cat. His bad arthritis and compromised immune system never stopped him from savoring a meal, playing with abandon, and loving his life. Colonel Tuesday (Tuesday for short) was only with us about 8 weeks. She was old, dilute tortie who belonged to someone at some point (she was declawed) but somehow ended up on the street at the age of 13. Unfortunately, she had a large, fast growing tumor in her stomach. The weeks she lived with us were precious. She played with catnip toys, enjoyed evenings on the screened porch, and made us laugh with her loud meows – turns out she was deaf and couldn’t hear how loud she was talking to us. The next time I adopt, it will definitely be an older cat and probably one with some issue.

    • Ingrid says:

      RT was the poster child for never giving up on a cat, that’s for sure, Mary. I was fortunate to have known him and to have him hang out with me in the animal hospital’s office during his initial recovery. He couldn’t have thrived the way he did if if wasn’t for your persistence, and loving care.

      Tuesday was lucky to have found you and to be able to live out her final weeks with you.

  8. I couldn’t agree more. We adopted Gris Gris a 12 year-old who is as playful as his one-eyed kitten companion cat Odin. They brought a second chance for happiness to Merlin, our 16-year old who was missing his deceased sister. Older cats bring their own wisdom and life experience. There are so many available, waiting in shelters for their second chance.

  9. Karen Lucas says:

    I have also always had cats beginning when they would follow me home after school when I was a child. More recently we had 4 cats – the one who was diabetic and in kidney failure died at 13 three years ago. Then two years ago this August, we lost our then 13 year old to a large tumor and suddenly two days later we lost our 16 year old who was hyperthyroid when he threw a clot. We had one cat left who is now 16 and so we adopted a 5 year old who had been abandoned in a trailer when her owner went into a nursing home, as a companion. While this was not very successful, it definitely distracted our kitty who was mourning her 3 brothers who were gone. The 5 year old was very traumatized and it has taken her some time to become more social but she gets sweeter every day. Then this past December I heard about two 14 year old kitties who had been taken to the SPCA because they could not go with their owners to their new housing. We have no idea of their medical history but we adopted them sight unseen because I was so sure no one would adopt 14 year old cats. They are a delight and talk to us all the time – one of them has a voice that sounds like a growel and the other has a voice that is a squeak. We have always had rescued cats and adopting cats who need a loving home enriches our lives and theirs.

  10. maru says:

    I have been in both situations getting home with a little kitten or an adult cat, different and marvelous. I agree, adult cats are better in certain circumstances, like for joining elder ones.

  11. Tracy says:

    The oldest cat we ever adopted was Pooh. He and his sister were 9 when they were taken to the shelter. The rescue group who pulled them, offered a discount if someone would adopt them both. She was snatched up quickly, but poor Pooh stayed in the cage at a Petsmart for another 3 weeks. I was fostering for that rescue group and my husband would visit with Pooh each time we dropped off our foster on the weekends, so we decided that if Pooh was still there by the third weekend, we would adopt him. He was part of our family for the remaining 9 years of his life.

    We have two 17 year olds right now (and have had them for 12 years). We tried a new vet last year and when the vet checked out Queue, she said, “This cat looks good for a 6 year old”. I told her he was 16, not 6. She then said, “This cat looks GREAT for a 16 year old!”

    Our 21 year old passed away last year. We had him since he was a kitten. Older cats are the best!

  12. Amy says:

    I just recently adopted a 9 yr old Siamese mix, Sugar, from Texas Cares (Dallas,TX). Her owner had cancer and was forced to give her up when going in to hospice. Her owner put her under the care of her vet and promised to ensure Sugar went to a good home. And that’s where I came in to the picture. I have other cats in my household so I was a little hesitant at first taking Sugar in, fearing the others wouldn’t accept her. Sugar has been with us for almost a month now and is doing fine. She is still a little shy but slowly fitting in to the family. Sugar’s owner has since passed on since I took Sugar in to my home. I am saddened by the loss of her mommy but I am happy that I found Sugar and have the chance of giving her happiness again. Sugar is very petite and very, sweet and laid back. I just love her already.

  13. [...] am honored and excited to announce that my article The Joys of Adopting an Older Cat won the 2011 Hartz Chewable Vitamins Award at the annual Cat Writers Association conference this [...]

  14. [...] always loved older cats, and I’m thrilled that my article about the joys of adopting an older cat won the 2011 Hartz Everday Chewable Vitamins award this past weekend. I adopted Buckley when she [...]

  15. [...] Share my award winning post about The Joys of Adopting an Older Cat [...]

  16. [...] for Best Pet Blog. We won a Certificate of Excellence from the Cat Writers Association. Our post The Joys of Adopting an Older Cat won the 2011 Hartz Chewable Vitamins Award. We are nominated for Best Website about Cats in the [...]

  17. [...] others about the joys and rewards of adopting an older cat, or a cat with special [...]

  18. Rachel says:

    Both of my kitties are senior kitties that I adopted at (approximately) 8 years old. My girl is now 10, and my boy 9 1/2. I have a strong preferences for older kitties for all the reasons mentioned above. They know their manners, are (for the most part) calmer, and much less destructive. But, mostly, they are just so full of love it’s ridiculous. My Morticia is literally the sweetest, most affectionate, loving cat I have ever met in my life – just content being near me at all times. And I’m not sure Apollo realizes that he’s older, from how he plays (literally – when my vet met him initially she questioned the age in his chart – until she looked in his mouth, I guess a cat’s teeth say a lot about how old they are). One of the biggest negatives I’ve heard about adopting an older cat is that they “will just die soon anyway” and that you get no real relationship with them. This is simply just not true. While you are taking a little bit of a risk, cats can still live to be into their 20s, and frequently live at least beyond 13. My first cat (who I did have from a kitten) lived to be 16 years old – with that math I should get about 8 years with my angel kitty, Morticia – but, to me, even one year with her would have well been worth taking her into my home. I’m a true believer in the statement “Who Rescued Who?” or “My cat rescued me.” All cats deserve love, no matter their age.

  19. Sandy says:

    I have been touched by reading these comments about older cats. I agree that they are precious and full of love. My mother passed away 8 years ago and left her sister calicos to me. Unfortunately, my 8 month old grandson has asthma and is allergic to the cat dander. Therefore, he is unable to visit his Gammy and Pap unless he is outside. It breaks my heart! I have to find a GOOD home for my girls. There has to be someone who would appreciate them and be willing to give them a home. They have never been separated so they must be placed together. Is there an angel out there who is willing???

  20. [...] Pet month. If you’re looking to add a new feline family member, don’t overlook the joys of adopting an older cat. Jane Harrell, executive producer at Petfinder.com, lists 10 reasons senior cats rule, and I agree [...]

  21. Joyce says:

    Just wanted to tell my story for all of you cat lovers. I am a colon cancer survivor with a permanant colotomy. I have felt like nobody wanted me after my surgery and chemo. Well I live alone and love all pets, so I started looking on the internet for a cat for a companion for me. I looked at many, many cats, from kittens to older cats. I had found an older cat of 10 years old, and she was going to be taken to a shelter and of all probability put down. I gave this a lot of thought and finally made a decision to adopt this little girl as nobody wanted me, and i know how it feels. She is the most adorable cat and adjusted in three hours to her new home. She sleeps with me, sits on my lap and looks at me with love in her eyes. I can only say go with your heart and give your cat love and she will give it back Please save an older cat you won’t be sorry

  22. Carolyn G says:

    Thank you for your story and insight. I recently lost my beloved Rudy, and 11 year old cream colored Tabby. I had him since he was eight weeks old. Im crushed. I just miss him so much. We were The best buddies. Although I love the energy of a young kitten, I don’t enjoy the mess can make. I know it’s only a matter of time before I bring another cat (or two) into my life and lately I’ve been thinking of an older cat(s). That’s why I came to this website. Those guys are so sweet but are too often over looked at the shelters. After reading your article leaning even more in that direction.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about Rudy, Carolyn. It’s so hard when we lose these special friends. I hope you’ll be able to open your heart and home to another cat – everyone’s timing is different, and you’ll know when the time is right, and which cat is right for you.

  23. brannon says:

    I have had two kittens over my 47 year old life period. I raised them both to adulthood. The first cat I had lived 19 1/2 years, and the last one I had lived 7 years. I am married now, and my wife and I have 3 adult cats. One is 4 years old, and the other two are 9 years old. We love cats. Kittens, adult, it doesnt matter. They all need love, and we need the love from them.

    A very wierd, sad, but wonderful thing happened the other day. The last cat Callie, who we had to put to sleep in January, stayed at my parents house after I got married. I went to see her all the time, to spend time with her, and to tell her, my life changed, but I did not abandon her. Anyway, she is gone now, and it has been relly hard, and lonely at my parents house for them, and when I go for a visit, I can feel it, and I can still feel Callie’s presence there.

    My wife has a friend, who was friends with a very nice and well respected man in the commnity. I met him a couple times, and I could could tell he was a great person, who loved cats. He died unexpectidly about a little over a week ago, and he had 6 cats. Well taken care of. He took very good care of them. Shots, feeding, etc. Well, after he died, 5 of the cats were adopted, but one little girl. Guess what her name is…..Yep CAllie, but spelled with a K. Anyway, my wife sends me an email, and she is freaking out. She then calls me and tells me to READ YOUR E-MAIL. She says it s so uncanny and a sign from God. So, I go to read my email, and read that this cat named Kallie needs a home, and all here brothers and sisters have already been adopted. I pull up the pic, and I am stunned, but in a good way. I told my wife to tell her friend that I will take her for my parents. So, they brought her over to my parents, and now, she is getting to know them and they are getting to know her. God moves in mysterious ways I guess. Kallie gets a loving home, my parents get conpanionship, and love, and George(the man who passed away) can rest easy, knowing that all his babies have good homes. This meeting as meant to be….

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