The Pet Guide 2018: Senior Pets Rock!

Here are some benefits of making an older dog or cat your best friend.



Forsyth is happy to be spending his golden years with Anne Stevens.

Roberto Gonzalez

Then and Now | Senior Pets Rock! | Casting a Canine Spell | Pet Products | Fighting Fright | Aloft’s Soft Spot | Pet Resource Guide

Anne Stevens, a volunteer “kitty cuddler” at Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, met 8-year-old Forsyth back in February 2017. The owner had surrendered the domestic shorthair cat, who was in a lot of pain from a severe urinary infection. For five months, shelter staff nursed Forsyth back to health, keeping the timid, withdrawn cat in the veterinarian’s office to give him a quiet place to heal.

Stevens, who has a soft spot for senior cats and those with special needs, wanted to meet Forsyth. “He crawled into my lap and started drooling profusely, which is what he does when he’s very happy,” Stevens laughs. “He adopted me at this point, and I knew I had to bring him home for his retirement years.”

Cats and dogs are considered “seniors” around age 6. While cats generally live about 12-18 years, a dog’s life expectancy runs a bit shorter (roughly 8-14 years). These stats prove one thing—senior animals still have a lot of life and love left in their years.

The Benefits

It’s hard to compete with cute, playful puppies and kittens. What’s the draw of adopting senior dogs and cats?

“They’re out of the puppy or kitten stage!” notes Steve Bardy, executive director of the Pet Alliance. “A lot of people don’t want to go through that training.”

Senior dogs are usually command-trained with the basics: sit, stay, come, heel. Plus, not everyone likes that phase when puppies chew furniture, kittens climb curtains, and both have accidents in the house.

Bardy points out that older dogs and cats are house-trained, and you know much more about their behavior, medical history, and personality from the previous owner. For example, you know if an animal walks on a leash and if they get along with other animals. Senior pets are also calmer.

Special Accommodations

You might think an older pet already has health problems. Not necessarily, says Bardy. “If you get a dog or cat that’s 6 or 7, you’re getting him at half-life. Health challenges might be another 6 or 7 years away.”

Of course, some senior pets might struggle with health issues that require medication, therapy, or a few simple accommodations. A dog with mobility or hip issues, for instance, might need a special diet, a raised food bowl, or a ramp to get up and down stairs.

Bardy offers these tips for keeping your senior pet happy and healthy:

  • Provide your pet with a few comfortable places to sleep around the house, like a pet bed or soft blanket.
  • Monitor his weight.
  • Ensure he has access to a bowl of clean water.
  • Feed him from a bowl (not the table!) twice a day. (It’s better for his digestive system.)
  • Keep his vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Go for annual wellness visits (or more frequently if your vet recommends it).
  • Thinking about adopting a cat? “Go for it!” encourages Stevens. “There’s no downside.”
  • For details on adopting an older pet, or to arrange a visit at one of Pet Alliance’s Orlando or Sanford locations, call 407-351-7722 or visit petalliance.org.

Seniors for Seniors

Like many animal shelters around the country, Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando offers a Seniors for Seniors program that makes a life-changing, and often a life-saving, difference for both senior pets and senior citizens.

How it works: The shelter places senior cats and dogs (typically over 6 years of age) with senior citizens who are 60 years of age or older. The silver lining? The shelter waives the adoption fee (regularly $25-$50) to encourage these senior matchups.

Besides giving older animals a second chance, the Seniors for Seniors program aims to help senior adopters rediscover the joys of animal companionship. Many older people live alone, often with family far away. Pets offer companionship, plus provide opportunities to interact with others, such as when pet owners take their dogs out for a daily walk. And the tranquil home of a senior citizen sets the perfect stage for an older animal who is likely calmer and less active than a young pup.

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