Puppies, kittens, and other young animals tend to be adopted first because they are just so darned cute. But this means that shelters often overflow with older animals who can make even better companions than their baby-faced counterparts. As the parent of a 14-year-old Jack Russell whom I raised from a pup, I can tell you that I look fondly on her wild and wacky days at the dog park, but I appreciate these last few golden years of mellow neighborhood walks and long afternoon naps.
Because there are so many older ladies and gents who still need a loving home, I'm providing a handful of reasons why you should consider adopting an aging pal and a few ways you can make them feel right at home.
Reason #1: They're Easy to Train
Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks . . . and quite easily, I might add! Since they are more focused than babies, older pets are able to pick up on your cues much faster than their younger counterparts. Most older pets are already housebroken or litter trained, too, making the transition to your home much easier — and cleaner!
Reason #2: Older Pets Present Few Surprises
When you adopt an older pet, you know exactly how large he is full-grown, his personality, any previous health issues, and grooming needs. He will settle in quickly to your home and doesn't need the 24/7 monitoring that puppies and kittens do.
Reason #3: They Like to Take It Easy
Even though senior pets still need regular exercise, their aging bodies also require plenty of sleep, and they are more than happy to curl up for a nap when you're busy.
Reason #4: They're Great Introductory Pets
If you're new to pet ownership, consider an older companion. Since they arrive on your doorstep already potty trained, more docile, and comfortable in their own skin, they are easier to incorporate into your life. They also carry less of a time commitment than babies and are therefore fantastic pets for people whose long-term futures are less certain.
Reason #5: They Are Loving Companions
Any close bond between pet and pet parent is something special to behold, but senior pets seem to appreciate what they have more than youngsters. Pets in their golden years are incredibly devoted and attached to their pet parents, which can make for a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with your fur friend.
Pampering Tip #1: Set Up a Comfortable Bed
Since older pets spend a good portion of the day resting, make sure they have a comfy spot to curl up. When your pal first arrives at home, you might want to place one of your worn t-shirts in the bed so he associates your smell with safety and security. And if you move around the house during the day, consider providing a couple nests where he can rest and keep an eye on you!
Pampering Tip #2: Provide a Quiet Environment
Senior pets lead a quiet existence and therefore appreciate a peaceful environment. Before bringing an older pet home, think about how he might be affected by children, younger and active animals, and loud noises around your house. Try to minimize chaos while he gets adjusted to his new living situation.
Pampering Tip #3: Offer Plenty of Water
Older animals get dehydrated easily and require plenty of water throughout the day. Place clean bowls of fresh water in a few spots around your house so your new friend doesn't have to travel far to get a cool drink!
Pampering Tip #4: Ply Them With Healthy Food and Treats
Since older animals face more health issues than youngsters, it's important to furnish them with a healthy, age-appropriate diet. As they age, pets need less fat and fewer calories, so you might need to check out your pet store's low-calorie or senior pet food offerings. And the same goes for treats: even minimorsels throughout the day can pack a fatty, high-calorie punch, so pay close attention to the nutritional information on the package.
Pampering Tip #5: Get in Some Low-Impact Exercise Every Day
Just because your pet is older doesn't mean that he doesn't need exercise. In fact, because his metabolism is slowing down, he's at an even higher risk for obesity than his younger, fitter self. So make some time for exercise, but make sure it's appropriate for his stage in life. A 30-minute stroll around the neighborhood twice a day should do the trick.