When people go to a shelter looking for a cat to adopt, they often look for the ‘newer models’: kittens. A lot of fantastic adult cats are often not adopted simply because they are old. This breaks our hearts because senior cats are usually the first to be put down in a shelter! If you want to adopt a cat (or two) and add some furry love to your life, read this article to learn about cat adopting tips and the pros and cons of adopting an older cat. You may not know it yet, but a mature senior cat may be a perfect match for you.
When is a cat an adult?
A cat is considered mature when she reaches 1 year of age, but this doesn’t mean that the cat stops growing. By the age of 9-12 months, kittens have reached a length and weight close to their full-grown size. After that, most cats continue to grow at a much slower rate until they are around 18 months old. The time it takes for your cat to become a fully-grown adult also depends on her breed. Some large breeds such as Maine Coon may take up to 2-4 years to fully grow.
Adopting a cat: Tips
We've compiled a list of steps that will help you during your first day and weeks of adopting a cat:
- Adoption cost and processing. The first question that you might have is how much does it cost to adopt a cat? An adoption fee covers a lot of services done at the shelter which may include: a veterinary wellness visit and exam ($150-300), neutering fee ($150-300), distemper vaccination ($20-30×2), rabies vaccination ($15-25), feline leukemia test ($30-50), flea/tick treatment ($50-200), microchip ($50), deworming ($20-50), and collar and an identification tag ($5-10). A shelter can also cover part of the adoption fee and you will end up paying between $25 and $300. Bring money with you to the shelter and secure enough time to fill in all the paperwork.
- Prepare before you actually bring your new pet home. Start by shopping for basic pet supplies and specialized senior pet supplies. Then, prepare a small room with a little food, drink, a litter tray, some toys and a warm bed which is enclosed on three sides (you can use a cardboard box and line it with old clothes or a blanket).
- Adoption day! Bring a basket to the shelter with a piece of fabric on top to provide a sense of security and safety to your new pet. Even though your new furry companion is happy to finally have a loving home, she will be stressed out due to the change of environment and confusion about what's happening. Old cats require gentle handling, so don't make any jerky or rocking movements to the basket.
- First day in the new home. Once you arrive home, gently open the basket and leave your cat on her own in the small room you prepared in step 2. Leave her on her own for several hours to give her space to adjust to the new environment and get used to the new and strange smells and noises.
- Hand feed your cat for the first several weeks. Feeding your cat is one of the best bonding exercises you can do. Your senior feline will learn to trust you and associate you with security. You can also create a special signal that will let her know that food is coming such as tapping her plate, whistling, calling her name or opening a specific cupboard.
- Clean her litter tray regularly. Make sure your cat knows where her litter tray is and that it is roomy enough for her to comfortably use with plenty of litter. Remove clumps several times a day and pay attention to whether she likes the specific kind of litter you use.
- Give enough time to new introductions. If you have small children in the house or other pets, don't be too quick to introduce her to them. Give your senior cat time to adjust to her new environment first, and then set aside a time when no one is in a rush to introduce her to other family members. If you own a dog, it might be a good idea to put either the dog or the cat in a cage during the first introduction. That way she will not feel threatened by the dog who could get overly excited to meet her.
- Register the cat with a vet in the area. Unless the shelter warns you otherwise, you can assume that your cat is in good health. However, it is still very important to have a vet who knows your cat that you can talk to whenever you have questions or go to in case of an emergency.
- Get a pet camera. Petcube pet cameras let you watch and interact with your pet when you're gone. It will let you monitor how your cat is adjusting to her new environment. You will also be able to talk to her through the two-way audio system, play with a laser or give her treats to remind her that you love her and haven't forgotten about her.
- Be patient! While getting a new pet is exciting, remember that your senior cat may be stressed and need time and space to adjust to her new environment and pet parents. A little bit of patience and love will help both of you through the adjustment period.
Potential cons of adopting an older cat
There are of course a number of problems that you could encounter after adopting an adult cat. However, with a little bit of love and patience they can easily be overcome!
- Senior cats have lower energy levels. For natural reasons senior cats are not as energetic as kittens and young cats. If you're looking for a furry companion to play with or have children who are very energetic, you may find a senior cat unexciting. Instead of running around and chasing imaginary mice, old cats prefer to sleep a lot, thoughtfully look through the windows and relax.
- You will have less time with your feline. A senior cat is an old animal, and may have health conditions which manifest themselves at an older age. It's sad to say, but instead of 15-25 years you will only have 5-10 years with your cat depending on her age when you adopt. Spend a lot of quality time with her and enjoy every moment.
The good: Reasons to Adopt a Senior Cat
You would be surprised to learn that adopting an old cat can be a fulfilling experience! Below is a list of reasons for why you should adopt a senior cat.
- Mature cats are calm, wise and experienced. Kittens are sweet and adorable, but they’ve got boundless energy in their tiny frames. They won’t leave you alone when it’s time for bed, have to be trained, and devour things left on countertops. Older cats have already lived in homes with other humans. They know how to use their litterboxes and are considerably calmer than kittens. They can keep you company, or quietly enjoy being on their own if you’re away from home.
- Budget. It sounds awful to put it this way, but adopting an adult cat is significantly cheaper than adopting a kitten! Many senior cats have already been spayed/neutered, dewormed, immunized and declawed (note: I advise against any declawing of future pets, but that’s for another time.) Plus, many shelters offer free adoptions for old cats! Use the ASPCA website to search for adoptable cats in your area.
- You know what you’re getting. When you’re adopting a kitten, you really don’t know what they will be like as an adult cat. They might turn out to be a lovely, fluffy pile of sweetness, or they might attack you in your sleep. Shelters will know everything about an adult cat such as her behavior, whether she gets along with other cats, pets and children, their health problems, and most importantly how she reacts to changes in the environment.
- Mature cats are great for households with children. No matter how much you tell your child about proper behavior and handling of pets, they won’t be able to be gentle with a cat because they haven’t grown into their fine motor skills yet. Older cats can handle a little more “rough handling” than kittens, who might react with scratching or biting - and those little claws and teeth hurt! A mature cat is more likely to put up with being yanked by her tail than a kitten and still love your child.
- Older cats are perfect companions for senior citizens. Older cats are a perfect addition to a venerable person’s home because they’re calmer, more relaxed and far less destructive than kittens. Kittens want to play all the time, and that can be taxing for someone who has limited mobility.
- Mature cats get along with other pets. If you’re looking to add a cat to a house that already has mature cats, an older cat will have an easier time integrating into the established dynamic. Adding a kitten into the mix will stress your older cats out, because if you’re not playing with the kitten, the kitten is playing with your cats. Mature cats enjoy their routines and independence and upending the balance in the home with an energetic kitten will be extremely stressful.
- A mature cat will love you endlessly. Studies have shown that after being adopted adult cats show gratitude and love in unbridled ways. They are indefinitely grateful that you have given them a warm home, whereas kittens can take your home and care for granted.
Older cats have immense love and willingness to give back, are more responsible than their younger counterparts, and fit in with other animals and people extremely well. Adopting a senior cat will enrich your life with the company of a devoted pet who will never forget your kindness. There isn’t really a reason why you shouldn’t consider adopting a mature cat!
Petcube makes pet cameras include Petcube Play and Petcube Bites that let you watch, interact and play with your pet from your smartphone when you're away. Having a Petcube will significantly ease the adjustment period of a senior cat to a new home and let her pet parents enjoy quality time with her when they're not home.