Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Seven Benefits of Adopting an Older Animal

I'm taking a "time-out" from working on my NaNo Novel to share something that is very close to my heart--animal adoption, especially adoption of older or senior dogs and cats.

Almost everyone wants to adopt a puppy or kitten because they're so cute and cuddly. Those little balls of fluff steal your heart and beg you to take them home. But there are several benefits to adopting an older animal.

1. An older animal is usually already housebroken; if not, they are easier to train than a kitten or puppy. Show the cat where the litter pan is, or take the dog outside and show it where you want it to relieve itself, and it will learn quickly what is expected. No cleaning up accidents on the floor, in your plant pots, or on your bed!

2. What you see is what you get. An adult animal's personality is already formed, so there's no guesswork as to what it will be like when it grows up. That cute, cuddly kitten may grow up to be standoffish and aloof. And that cute, energetic puppy might turn out to be a one-dog demolitionist when left at home alone.

3. If you adopt from a shelter, an older dog will already be spayed/neutered, and will be up-to-date on shots. Many shelters also give you a coupon for a free vet check-up, as well as other helpful materials such as coupons for food, non-food supplies, etc. The adoption fee is usually far less than the cost of the series of puppy/kitten shots, spaying/neutering, etc.

4. Since they have likely already lived in a household, they have better "manners." Barring an anxiety disorder, they are far less likely to chew the furniture, your shoes, or the molding on your doorways like a teething puppy would. And, they tend to be more mellow and happy to keep you company. Older cats already know what not to scratch, and usually know what "no" means. When we adopted 3-year old Micau (cat), if she started to do something that was not allowed, all I had to do was say "Unh-uh" and she'd stop immediately and understand that was off limits.

5. Chances are an older dog will already know some basic commands; but even if they don't, they are fairly easy to train using positive reinforcement and a little patience. It's not true that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." Older dogs have a longer attention span than puppies, are more focused, and have some life experience in relating to humans behind them. For example, we adopted my service dog when she was six years old, and she'd had minimal training. Not only were we able to teach her all of the basic obedience commands, but also the service behaviors I needed her to perform--all within the first few months of her living with us.

6. If you have limited time, an older pet may be what you need. Training a puppy or kitten, house-breaking them, teaching them what is and is not appropriate or acceptable behavior, is similar to having a human toddler. It requires a lot of time and energy. Since an older animal has generally mastered the basics, you can spend more of your time just enjoying them.

7. Older animals, especially shelter animals, appreciate being given a second chance at having a forever home. All they want is someone who will love and take care of them. In return, they will give you unconditional love and be the best companion you ever had.

Have you ever adopted an older or senior pet? Share your experiences in the comment section below.