During Adopt a Senior Pet Month Take Home a Senior Cat
Whether they grow old in your presence or arrive at that great age, a senior cat is a better companion than many people seem to think they might be, and they will often surprise you with their longevity. When a kitten matures you never really know if you’ll get a cuddler, a player, a social butterfly, or a loner, or a kitty who loves to lie on your lap but not play. When you meet a senior cat, what you see is basically what you get. And really, a relationship with a companion animal isn’t all about “you” and how you feel, but remember how the kitty feels and how much it needs you to provide what it needs to make its life complete.
What we expect when we adopt a cat
When we consider adopting a cat we usually think about what we expect from that cat, and it’s a good thing to go into this important relationship with a clear idea of what we expect. Often our ideal cat is one who is full of unconditional love and loyal to us, likes to cuddle and spend time with us, a cat we can spoil a little and they’ll really appreciate it.
But all relationships take two, and our needs are only half of that deal. Often younger cats have another agenda and take years to settle down to where we feel they are truly a companion. No cat fits this description of what most people are looking for in a cat better than a senior who is ready to just have a nice life for whatever time is left.
While we want a cat who will spend a lifetime with us, senior cats are looking for a human to spend the rest of their lifetime, and will be no less loyal and loving for having spent the first years elsewhere. And if we think we will be sad when we lose them sooner than we want to and therefore won’t consider a senior cat, imagine how sad that cat is right now, at their age in a shelter with no home, and an uncertain future. Surely we can set aside our fear of loss to make an older cat very happy.
Often people object to adopting a senior because they feel their death is imminent and “it will hurt when I lose them.” When Peaches and Cream came along, even though I’d only agreed to foster, I knew no one was going to adopt two 15-year-old cats in early renal failure. It didn’t matter to me how long Peaches and Cream lived or if I was hurt when I lost them; it wasn’t about me. They were a joy, and I’ll never forget them, and while Cream was only with us for 10 months, Peaches was with us for five years. Cream managed to spend a few of those months as a visiting kitty to the personal care home where my mother lived. You can read about Peaches’s late-life career as a feline photographer as proof that they’ll go on to enjoy life to the last moment, and read the whole story of her five years with us that seemed like a lifetime in “Never Underestimate a Senior Kitty”.
What age is a senior cat?
Each cat matures and ages differently and feline life stages with human equivalents used to be very complicated, but a couple of years ago the American Association of Feline Practitioners simplified this into four age categories:
Kittens (Birth up to 1 year)
Highly active and playful, this is the time when kittens learn to be cats and socialize to their world. The more positive experiences they have at this age, the more confident and social they are likely to be through the rest of their lives, and that includes brushing, nail trims and going to the veterinarian.
Young Adult (1 year – 6 years)
Cats settle into their territory during this time and also reach sexual maturity if they aren’t altered. They also settle into the long-term personality and daily habits. Playing with your cat and providing enrichment is especially important.
Mature Adult (7 – 10 years)
Cats often begin to slow down and may gain weight if their activity level reduces but their diet does not, and they may show the first signs of later conditions, like osteoarthritis or heart disease.
Senior (over 10 years)
Considering cats can live into their twenties much can happen during this decade, but the best thing is to start with a comprehensive exam and tests at the very beginning, and be vigilant about health, activity and enrichment to catch any conditions that may arise.
I won’t tell Mimi and the kids they are all “senior cats” because they are all in their teens—in fact, Mimi is 19 and the kids are 15! But most people are surprised to find they are that old because they are all active and friendly and look quite young, and I’m sure they have a lot of years left. That’s why I use them as an example when talking about adoption of senior cats.
Our pets’ lives are shorter than ours, and once their age is in the double digits the fear of their seemingly imminent loss can often outweigh the joy of their potential unconditional love. But we never have a guarantee at how long a pet will live even if we adopt it at just a few months old. The main objections to adopting senior cats are that they “don’t have enough time left” and they “aren’t active and playful”. I’ve lived with several who lived to be 20 and even older, and also lost Lucy at 15 months. I can tell you that Mimi chases Mariposa just for fun, and The Four Housecats of the Apocalypse mix it up with the young’ns daily.
You can find more information about the life stages and indicators on the Cat Friendly Homes website in The Four Life Stages.
Won’t a senior cat have expensive illnesses?
We are able to give our pets assistance and support as they age so our sweet seniors can surprise us with their intelligence, sensitivity and longevity and live happily and in good health far more years than we expected. A pet whose age is in the double digits may still have a decade or more left to share with you.
The fear of illnesses and veterinary costs for older pets is a real issue, but a kitten’s first years also have expenses for spay or neuter, tests, vaccines. A healthy diet and regular play at any age improves health so you would have those expenses with a cat of any age. Chronic illnesses may also arise at any life stage, and while they are more likely as a cat ages, just like humans, giving a cat a healthy life will also help to avoid or mitigate late life illnesses. If you’re adopting a senior cat whose history you don’t know, you can start right away with a good diet, activity and enrichment. Learning about potential conditions and illnesses helps to overcome the fear of adopting a cat who needs constant, expensive care.
Stepping in for a senior cat after they’ve lost their human
It’s not unusual that a senior pet is relinquished by a senior human either from the person’s illness or infirmity or even death. Losing their longtime person and home, often the only one they’ve ever known, can be a trauma in itself, but older pets can weather this with surprising patience and grace. You can make a senior cat feel welcome and safe and start right away with healthy measures and enrichment by setting up a cozy spot in your home where everything is convenient. Get to know your new kitty’s habits and needs and make sure the rest of your home is welcoming as well.
My hospice fosters Emeraude and Lakota who came to me at age 19 and 20. While Lakota’s time was only measured in weeks, they were six great weeks wherein he had the chance to totally charm and conquer one more human in his lifetime. Emeraude was with us for only months but it was enough time for her to relax and really join our household, enjoy the company of other cats and know that she was special to me and the other household felines. They had the chance to live out their lives to their natural end.
Still, senior pets often languish in shelters, even longer than other adults, and in some shelters are not given a chance at adoption at all. Senior cats deserve homes just as much as younger pets, and I am here to tell you that adopting a senior pet is one of the best things you’ll ever do. A senior or even geriatric pet remembers a lifetime of having a home or homes, and while sitting in a shelter waiting to be adopted knows what they are missing in those final years. Our pets deserve to live as long as their natural lifespan allows. If any pet needs the loving support of a human, it’s a senior pet.
I think of all the cats who spent their lives with me into their late teens and early twenties—Kublai, Stanley, Moses, Sophie, Namir, Peaches, Cookie, Kelly. I think of any of these cats being homeless at that age and I know those older pets looking for homes right now are no different from the cats I loved. For all the kittens and playful juveniles and lovely adult cats whose photos I see every day looking for homes, it’s those seniors I’m the most moved to rescue and I wish I could do more. Aside from taking them all in, the best thing I can do is take what I can and encourage others.
This is but one sweet memory of my senior cats. Cookie came to me as a three month old kitten rescued by a neighbor boy. Kelly came to me as a four-year-old surrendered by a friend who couldn’t keep her. Peaches and her sister Cream (the names I gave them) came to me at age 15 after their person died. Cream lived 10 months but Peaches lived five years. You see the three of them in my painting above at ages 15, 14 and 17, respectively, all seniors, and Peaches fully integrated into the household in her two years with us. Together and individually, they gave me inspiration and memories, as I hope I did for them.
Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.
There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.
- Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
- Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
- Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
- Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
- Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.
If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.
Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives.
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The painting illustrates a moment in my kitchen that I treasure because it includes Peaches, plus my painted white wood table with the vintage Battenburg lace table cover, three painted white chairs I’d picked up over the years and a hand-made white-painted cabinet that carried a story all on its own, plus a bouquet of peony flowers a friend had stopped and dropped off because she thought I’d like them. The reflections, the wrinkles in the cloth, everything is the memory of a part of my life, but so I’ve found, also familiar to others. Read more Portraits of Animals
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
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Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
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2 thoughts on “During Adopt a Senior Pet Month Take Home a Senior Cat”
Thank you for sharing this wealth of information, this is very interesting. And is so important to know.
Visiting today from IMM#29,30&31
Thank you for visiting, and I’m glad you found the information helpful!