5 Reasons to Consider Rescuing a Senior Pet

March 7, 2016 - Nate Needs

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(This piece was originally posted in November 2014 on my blog, Second Chances.  It has been updated and modified for A.P.E.)

One of the most heartbreaking things to see is a senior dog or cat sitting behind bars in a shelter.  And it happens so often.  I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I scroll fast past a photo of an elderly dog with the caption reading “To be destroyed”, because the sadness of it all can be overwhelming.  There are, after all, so many homeless senior animals, and so few of those who can appreciate how wonderful old pets are.

Many people mistakenly believe that older pets must have done something wrong to end up in a shelter – they must have had some “naughty” behaviors for their owners to surrender them.  This is not true!  Many times, senior dogs and cats end up in shelters because their owners have passed away or become ill; other times, owners move into assisted living or cannot financially care for their pet anymore.  In most cases, senior animals are in shelters through no fault of their own.  I have met many senior pets within the past few years, and each has been more sweet and loving than the last.  Here’s why you should consider adding an older dog or cat to your family.


A painting of my husband’s grandpa’s late dog, Lucy…Wasn’t she beautiful?

Fewer surprises – One of the top reasons for people returning a dog to a shelter is because they adopted the dog when it was a puppy and “didn’t realize how big he was going to get.”  Another reason is not doing enough research into the breed; for example, Australian Shepherd or Border Collie puppies will get adopted then returned because the family hadn’t realized how much energy they’d have.  When you adopt a senior dog, what you see is basically what you get:  for the most part, their personalities are already formed, and their size isn’t going to change.  The same can be true with cats – kittens love to playfully claw and bite, and some owners may not realize that before adopting a young cat.

Less training – In general, adoptable senior dogs and cats are fairly well-trained.  When I worked in a shelter, it was the older dogs who kept the cleanest kennels and seemed to be the most reliable in terms of “holding it.”  Besides some training to work on his barking, my 8-year-old Riley came to us fully house-broken and even knew a few tricks when we adopted him.  Seniors are also calmer than puppies or kittens (at least most of the time!), so chances are, they’re easier to train.  In shelters, people tend to gravitate towards the adorable puppies and kitties, but older pets don’t come with the crazy energy and tendency to chew, bite, or claw that young ones have!

Low maintenance and great for families – Sure, a senior dog would love to go for a walk with you…but he’s just as content curled up on your lap on the couch.  And an older kitty is more than happy to bat around a toy for a while…but what she really loves is to take naps with you!  Though senior pets often still have energy to play, they are starting to slow down and enjoy living the lazy life – so if you’re short on time to play or lead a busy family life, an older animal might be good for your lifestyle.  Older pets also tend to be more independent and don’t need constant attention like puppies and kittens do – this is ideal for families with young children who do constant attention. (Keep in mind that although older pets might need less exercise, that doesn’t mean they don’t need any!  Get out the leash or laser pointer at least once a day so that your senior dog or cat can still get the exercise they need.)


They’re adorable! – Let’s face it, dogs and cats only get cuter with age.  Nothing is sweeter than a furry face with a greying muzzle, and I think society (or at least social media) is starting to embrace that.  Sites like Buzzfeed are constantly sharing photos or stories about senior pets, and often the Instagram pets that get the most “likes” are older animals.  Even better, organizations like Susie’s Senior Dogs are popping up everywhere, aiming to find perfect homes for senior adoptables.

Save a life – Senior dogs and cats are often the first ones to be euthanized if a shelter is short on space.  They are constantly looked over in favor of those who are younger, healthier, cuter, etc.  Saving a dog or cat that is getting up there in years feels good, and it’s highly rewarding.  The bond you and your pet will form after you have saved his life is an amazing thing, and he’ll be devoted to you for the rest of his days.



This beautiful girl is Cosmo, a super-sweet senior currently available for adoption through A.P.E.  Cosmo adores children, and she loves nothing more than a good cuddle!  She is a bit overweight – more of her to love! – and will need to stay on diet food once she is adopted.  If you’re interested in this gorgeous senior gal, contact us or fill out an adoption application.  Remember:  Adopting a senior pet is seriously rewarding!

What do you love about senior pets?  Share in the comments! 🙂

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