Adopting? Keep an Open Mind — Older Pets Often Make Perfect Pets.


Skipper, like many older pets, has been overlooked by potential adopters.

Skipper, a friendly, healthy and homeless black cat, is ready to give and receive love in a new home as much as any of his cohabitants at the ASPCA Adoption Center. He loves his mouse toys and having his nose rubbed, but as cats and kittens around Skipper get adopted every day, one thing holds him back: Skipper is 8.

Skipper’s age isn’t his problem so much as a problem in the minds of prospective adopters conditioned to think that, because kittens and puppies are “cuter,” they might make better pets or create stronger bonds.

Neither is necessarily true, and this prejudice can be deadly. Older animals with longer stays are often the least likely to be adopted and the most likely to be euthanized.

This is why coming to a shelter with an open mind is so crucial. And you know as well as I do that when you’re looking for a new pet and personally interact with a shelter animal, the significance of his or her age suddenly plummets.

Perspectives can also change when our media channels become more inclusive. Social media has largely done its part to showcase older and adult animals, including Chloe Kardoggian (age 13), Marnie the Dog (age 16), and Lil Bub (age 6), and their platforms are being admirably used to raise awareness about adult and senior animal adoption.

But we still need to see more depictions of healthy adult pet adoptions in the storylines of kids’ books, games, movies, TV shows and commercials.

Dog Bowl stars Dino (left) and Gus, both 6, were adopted from the ASPCA Adoption Center.

The Dog Bowl

In one positive development, Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, now in its 14th year, added Puppy Bowl Presents: The Dog Bowl the night before the year’s biggest football game.

The game was played exclusively by older dogs, including a 6-year-old retriever mix named Gus and a 6-year-old Labrador/beagle mix named Dino, both of whom were adopted from the ASPCA Adoption Center in 2017.

We hope that seeing the fun, playful side of adult animals in The Dog Bowl encouraged single-minded adopters to think again.

5 Advantages of Adopting an Older Pet

Finally, we need to call out and share the many sizable advantages to caring for a more mature animal:

  1. Older animals with a history of living within a family may settle in more quickly than a puppy or kitten.
  2. Adult animals won’t have teething issues and will come into your life less likely to cause destruction. Many are already house-trained and have already mastered basic commands.
  3. It may be easier to bond with older animals due to their typically calmer dispositions, their familiarity with home environments and their experience living with other animals.
  4. Adult animals require less supervision than puppies or kittens, who sometimes can’t distinguish between safe situations and dangerous ones and may not know — or care — what “no” means.
  5. Whereas the personalities of puppies and kittens change as they grow up, the personalities of adult animals are fully formed, which makes them more predictable. That doesn’t mean adult animals can’t learn — in fact, they can be amazingly adaptive.

However animal adopters get the message, they need to know that the best way to find a “perfect pet” is by checking preconceived notions at the shelter door, asking lots of questions and letting their hearts guide them.

A sweet dog or cat’s life may depend on it.

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This article was written by Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

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