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Twelve Reasons Senior Pets Are an Awesome Investment

I mentioned in my last post that my vacation was wholly suboptimal. The piss-icing on the shit-cake was that my little cat passed away. Yep, that was How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part Two: Digging a Grave in the Rain for the Dopest Cat Who Ever Walked This Unclean Earth.

WAIT! COME BACK!!

Don’t worry, don’t worry! This isn’t going to be a tearjerker. I swear on my honor that you can read this post while wearing non-waterproof mascara. My cat had a great life and a dignified death—that’s something to be happy about. That’s basically all I’ll say about her.

But I did want to take this opportunity, in her honor, to speak out about my experience adopting rescued pets—particularly seniors. This is a blog about money and adult responsibilities, but also about creating happiness and enjoying the human experience to the fullest. Pets have the potential to greatly influence all of those things.

If you want to add a pet to your family, I firmly believe that adopting a senior is a substantially better choice for most people than getting a puppy or a kitten. And I’mma tell you why. You’ll be surprised how many of the reasons are financial.

1. Senior pets are less expensive to adopt

Almost every rescue offers tiered pricing for animals based on their age. Puppies and kittens are the most in-demand and the most expensive. Adults are cheaper. And seniors are the cheapest of all.

Sometimes they’re even free. Shelters have a very hard time placing seniors. They don’t want price to be a barrier for the few people open-minded enough to consider it.

2. Senior pets are often cheaper to care for

This is a little counter-intuitive, and it’s not always true—but I’ve personally found seniors to be less expensive to care for overall.

Mostly this is because they don’t have the same instincts to roam. (Or put weird stuff in their mouths, or start shit with a llama, or just generally act like fools.) When you’re bringing in groceries, who’s waiting to seize the moment they can bolt past you and straight into traffic? Young animals. Who’s climbing up into trees or hopping over fences or eating pantyhose or getting faces full of porcupine? Young animals! Young animals are accident-prone little ijits, and their explorations make them much more likely to need expensive emergency care.

Geriatric care, meanwhile, isn’t necessarily that expensive. I had a cat who lived to twenty, and another to eighteen, and neither one needed medications or extra visits to the vet. Like dependable little Honda Civics, they each rode for 300,000 miles with no issues until suddenly the wheels fell off and it was their time to go. Even if they do need regular meds, meds are usually cheaper for common chronic conditions that come with age, like kidney and thyroid issues.

3. Senior pets know exactly who they are

I once had a friend who was looking for a dog. I asked him what he most wanted. “An outgoing dog,” he said. “One who’s friendly and likes everybody. The one thing I can’t handle is a shy dog.” I advised him to get an adult, but he was dead-set on getting a puppy. Good readers, I’m going to shock you now… brace yourselves… the puppy he adopted turned out to be super shy and aloof.

Kittens and puppies are baby animals. Their personalities are basically unknown. Who knows if they’ll be shy, fearful, playful, aggressive, energetic, territorial, aloof, protective, sweet… it’s possible to end up with a total misalignment for your lifestyle. It’s much easier to gauge fixed personality traits with older cats and dogs.

4. Senior pets are less of a time commitment

Did you read that part where I mentioned I had a cat live to be twenty years old? That’s older than half of our readers! Speaking of which, I haven’t been catering to them enough. <dabs> YOU KIDS STILL LIKE DABBING, RIGHT?!

A pet can greatly enrich your life. But what if you want to live abroad someday, or focus fully on raising young children, or take a job that requires many long hours away from home? You can still reap all the benefits of owning a pet but without making a decades-long commitment.

5. Senior pets need less training

Listen, I’ve house trained, crate trained, and potty trained about two dozen dogs in my career as a fosterer. It’s not that hard, but it’s fucking annoying. Basically you set the animal up for success as best you can, then correct it when it fails.

I’ve lost homemade apple pies to counter surfers. I’ve lost rugs to rogue pissers. Untrained dogs have chewed up my remote controls, iPhone charging cables, sweaty bras, garbage cans, down blankets, dog beds, and used tampons. It’s not their fault—they don’t know better until I teach them. But you lose a lot of stuff in the teaching process.

Most seniors have figured out all the basics of where and when to pee, how to hold it, and which toys belong to them. If you’re not confident in your training skills, or don’t have the time to invest, or can’t risk the collateral damage, seniors are a great choice.

6. Senior pets aren’t dumbasses

When a door was accidentally left open at home, my two young dogs packed their bags and headed straight for The Woods. They spent hours dodging cars, chasing deer, picking up ticks, and rolling in whatever dead stuff they could find. My roommate’s thirteen-year-old border collie saw the open door and took a pass. “Nah,” she thought, “there’s AC here, I’m good.”

That, readers, is a sensible dog. See the wisdom of her age written in that decision, and respect it.

7. Senior pets are chill af

The main reason we wanted a senior is because they have such tame needs.

A senior cat wants four things: food, water, a clean litter box, and some quality patches of sunlight. Anything beyond that is details. Toy mice, cat condos, catnip, scratchers, laser pointers, treats… meh. Nice to have, I guess, but a lot of senior pets are too evolved for that noise.

If you’re disabled in any way that limits physical activities, seniors are a great choice. You can get all the myriad health benefits of pet ownership without feeling like your situation deprives them in any way.

8. Senior pets are grateful

One of my fosters was a pitbull I’ll call Maisie. Maisie was rescued from a dog fighting ring, where she was used for breeding. When she was picked up, she had just given birth to several puppies. It’s a miracle they lived, because Maisie was utterly starved. You could see every rib and every vertebra. Every scrap of nutrition she had, she gave to those puppies, who were all sleek and fat.

She was pulled from a high-kill shelter and sent up to me for fostering and eventual adoption. Abuse was clearly part of her past—I once held up a ruler to point at something, and she scrambled away, grinning in submission, afraid I would use it to strike her.

You would think that the fear, the hunger, the abuse, the violence, and the uncertainty of her life would be enough to guarantee some lingering behavioral issues. But Maisie’s been in her forever home for a year now, and I’m happy to report that she’s a big pile of happy mush. She sleeps for twenty hours a day, with (hand to god) a huge smile plastered on her wrinkly face. She basically lives in her owners’ laps, needs to be pried off the couch with a spatula. She had it really rough once, and now she’s enjoying the good life to the fullest.

Pets who’ve lived a long time have known times of plenty and times of want. They know a good thing when they see it. That’s why so many of them are content with so little.

9. Senior pets are rarely given up for a good reason

Sadly, I’ve heard many people assume that an older cat or dog must be in the shelter because of significant behavioral or health problems.

BRUH! This just ain’t the truth!

The number one reason that people surrender both cats and dogs to animal shelters is because they’re moving. It sounds like a callous reason, and sometimes it can be, but sometimes it’s completely understandable. My senior cat’s previous owner only gave her up when it was time for her to move into a full-time nursing facility. Obviously that’s no reflection on their worthiness, as owner or pet.

10. SENIOR PETS ARE SO CUTE

LOOK AT THESE LITTLE FACES.

Old! Cat.

Old! Dog.

GAH.

11. Senior pets need love

This, I think, is the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, we are an ageist society. Don’t believe me? Head on over to CrunchyRoll and count how many anime series star anyone over the age of twenty. Ancient demons who coincidentally happen to look like teens do not count.

Seriously, we have a deep preference for the young and the beautiful. That prejudice is ingrained so deeply that its unfair judgements exceed the reach of our own species.

Puppies and kittens are cute and worthy of love and attention—but as they age, we value them less. We come to view them as burdens. That’s an incredibly sad reality to witness, because these animals have done nothing to merit diminished affection. If anything, their maturity should make them more lovable and dependable.

12. Saying goodbye doesn’t have to be sad

The #1 reason I hear people decline to adopt a senior pet is some variation of “saying goodbye that soon is just too sad.”

I hate this narrative so much it makes me want to scream.

Yeah. Fine. Death is sad. It’s sad when things die. But of the thousand days I knew my senior cat, she only died on one of them. And don’t get me wrong—yes, that day was a very, very sad one. I cradled her body in the parking lot of the vet’s office and wept and wailed like a banshee. But the sadness of that one day does absolutely nothing to counterbalance the immeasurable joy brought to me on the thousand days she didn’t die.

Come he slow or come he quick, Death comes for all of us. Fear of the sadness of parting is a really stupid reason to not greet something at all. Had no one adopted her, she would’ve spent those days, scared and unloved and overlooked, in a shelter. Doesn’t that make you sadder?

Please, please, please rescue

If I haven’t convinced you to give senior pets a shot, oh well, I tried! It isn’t necessarily for everyone. It’s a good idea to have a solid emergency fund before you undertake any pet adoption. I waited until I could make that fund a little bigger before I adopted a senior, just in case.

At the very least, please, I beg you, adopt your pets. Whether they’re puppies and kittens or old dogs and cats, there’s rarely a good reason to buy a purebred animal. Like, what are you—a literal shepherd? It’s likely just a bullshit aesthetic preference, or a vague desire for a guarantee of a certain personality type. Because all golden retrievers are Hufflepuffs, and all border collies are Ravenclaws. RightRiiiiigghhht.

Even so, if you really think you absolutely must have a purebred animal, put yourself on the waitlist at a breed rescue and sit your ass down to wait.

I’m incredibly bummed to see that, after slouching away into the shadows for two decades, pet shops are starting to appear again in suburban shopping centers across America. There is a stomach-churning mountain of suffering behind their cutesy exteriors. Don’t believe the employee’s vague testaments to their “rigorous standards” and “reputable breeders.” No reputable breeder sells their animals sight-unseen to random mall shoppers. Puppy mills are alive and well, and the conditions are appalling.

I know it’s tempting to want to “rescue” a kitten or puppy from its sad little cage in a store. But the hundreds of dollars you give to the industry will only be used to sustain and grow it. Cutting off demand is the best way to kill this ugly business dead.

Oh, did you want more hot takes on pet-related content?!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—that last article is my all-time personal favorite. Such research! Such spreadsheets! Such dad jokes! A+ Kitty content! Go read that next, please.

You know what’s coming now, right? I DEMAND PET COMMENTS! Have you rescued a pet? Opened your heart to a senior?? Please tell us about it in the comments below! Posts with links to pictures get BGR gold stars!

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35 thoughts to “Twelve Reasons Senior Pets Are an Awesome Investment”

  1. We welcomed Casey, a 12-year-old border collie, into our family last year when a relative passed away.

    I had hardly spent any time with her before she moved in with us, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. But, we had been talking about getting a dog around that time anyway, so it only made sense for her to join our family.

    She’s 13 now and only gave us one small vet scare, which turned out to be an ear infection that led to doggy vertigo. After a week of having to literally sit on her to force pills down her throat, she’s back to her normal, happy, smiling self.

    You didn’t mention in your article that senior pets can often be better for families with young children. My son was six months old when she joined our family, and she is so gentle and accepting of him. Puppies overwhelm him, and she is just wonderful.

    1. I could go either way on this point. Older dogs are often calmer and more tolerant, but they’re also prone to things like arthritis that can make them more defensive of their bodies. (For very understandable reasons.)

  2. I got my cat from the SPCA and specifically got an older cat (he was 4). I didn’t have the inclination or desire to deal with a kitten. 15 years later, I’ve only had 3 times I had to take him to the vet for issues. I’ve been lucky to have a healthy cat who still runs around and is awesome.

    1. That’s a great age! They’ve still got tons of live and vivacity left, but they’ve worked out all their dumb kitten antics.

  3. I love this post! My husband and I have a 14-year-old yellow lab and he has enriched our lives so much. We’ve had him for 7 years and it has been fun to see our timid boy turn into a funny, occasionally mischevious, ham. I would totally recommend a senior dog to anyone.

    I wish there was a way to attach pictures to this post. We took him to a walk for our local Humane Society last weekend and pulled him around in a camping wagon. He totally loved the attention and became a celebrity.

    1. Ugh. I was co-parented by a yellow lab. She was the fucking best. Overflowing with love (and stolen loaves of bread). 10/10, would wagon with your pupper.

    1. I read that as “rescue pig” at first and got super duper excited. Then I clicked on the link and remained excited because pugs are also amazing.

  4. You are brilliant.
    My husband and I have always gone for the “good used dog” and have had an amazing and very happy life with some beloved characters.
    When we have lost them (we always pick older large ones) , he is the one who is distraught…which is amazing as he presents an emotionally regulated face to the world. I read your comment to him and suddenly everything made sense to him, and why I am ready to get back into the saddle if I lose a dog child.
    Thanks for everything.

    1. Wahhhhhh, that makes me so happy! Thank you for picking big ol’ boys. They’re definitely among the hardest to place.

  5. I came to this post just to comment about my perfect (not so) baby angel! Her family got a new kitten and dumped her at the shelter as a 6-year-old. I’ve had her 7 years now and adopting a shy, low maintenance adult is the best decision I’ve ever made.

    I know so many young people determined to get a kitten or puppy, but senior kitties are PERFECT for your youth because they DNGAF if you work 9-6 and then go out for cocktails as long as they have food, water, and a soft place to sleep.

    1. THAT’S WHAT I’M ALL! They’re soooooo low-maintainence. You don’t even need a pet sitter if you’re just leaving for a night or two. Extra food and water, and that’s it, you’re done. SO ECONOMICAL! AND SO CUTE!

  6. I absolutely love this post. Now we did rescue our dogs when they were 3, but I have been on the adopt a senior pet kick for a year now with friends and convinced 2 of them to do so. Adoption is really the only way to go. Now that our dogs are getting toward middle age I can’t imagine giving them up ever (until that fateful day). I will make sure that they are always taken care of, even if that means I have to go hungry (I need to lose weight anyway). Adopt all the way and adopt senior is even more special.

    1. THANK YOU FOR OUTING YOURSELF AND YOUR WRETCHED MONGREL.

      Yes, it was Goosey’s dog who stole my homemade apple pie. To be more accurate, he only stole the crust. No disgusting, healthy fruits for him. Just the flakey, buttery lattice crust I’d slaved over weaving the night before, which he nibbled off with surgical precision.

      An act so diabolical the American people will likely elect him to office.

  7. We rescued a pitt-mix who had been returned to the shelter (a kill shelter!) by her previous owners. She was about a year, so not a senior, but we thought that she might not be adopted because people would think she had done something terrible to be returned, given the prejudices against pitts. She’s a gem, obviously, and known as the sweetest dog in our building. It was great getting a dog who was already housebroken and spayed.

    https://www.instagram.com/faraday_von_gurken/

    1. OH. MY. GOD. HER LITTLE FLAPPY EARS LOOK LIKE ANIME PIGTAILS. HER WEIRD LITTLE FROWNY MOUTH. 13/10. I’VE DIED.

      Sadly, that’s super common. Adopt them as a cute lil’ puppy, get tired of them and return them a year later. Often without the training/socialization/exercise they deserved. She was so lucky to find you guys! May or may not end up stalking your dog on my personal ‘Gram account…

  8. Love this article! We were 100% in search of an older dog because I agree with everything you said, but we happened to fall in love with this pupper. Well, what can you do. He’s proven to be a lot of work but luckily not super high-energy and he’s a great fit for our family 🙂 https://www.instagram.com/petey_pupperoni/

    1. NO NO NO NO NO NO HE’S TOO CUTE TAKE HIM BACK. HE’S JUST A LITTLE BABY COW.

      Why didn’t I think to solicit pet photos from our readers ages ago. This is the best day ever.

  9. My beloved horse was 17 when I took over his care from his previous owner. He remained healthy and happy up til just a few days before we had to put him to sleep, as he could no longer stand or walk and was obviously in pain with no chance to get better . He was a wonderful friend and companion both to me and all the other horses he lived with.

    1. You’re living my dream life. I would love to own a horse one day, and the youngest I’m even considering looking is 12. I have no problem with more woah than go, I need a sensible gentleman to take care of my ass. I’m so happy he had such a great long life with you!

      1. Hahaha, sadly Siggy was a one off and I no longer have horses (wouldn’t fit even one hoof into my tiny Tokyo apartment) but one day when I reach my FIRE goals I am going to adopt ALL the horses.

  10. My partner and I adopted a 1.5 year old chihuahua from a cat rescue. I didn’t get it then and don’t understand it now. Whatever. PetFinder did it’s magic and and connected us with this tiny ball of cuddles. This tiny dog vacations with us: road trips to Asheville, trips to Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, and DC. When she came to us, she was beyond the puppy destruction phase, was housebroken, and would follow you when you called her name. A couple rounds of classes later and she’s perfect. She’s by no means a senior dog yet. However we became the perfect loving home for a dog who doesn’t do well with children and loves adventure. Just because the dog didn’t fit with one family doesn’t mean they aren’t great for another!

    1. Totally true!! Sometimes the right home isn’t the first one.

      Man, the best foster we ever had was a little chihuahua. He’d been attacked by larger dogs, came to us with his little tummy stapled shut. He was so traumatized. He actually bit me with his ridiculous little pencil-eraser teeth when we first met. I let him gnaw on me for a little bit, then I looked him in the eye and said, “Lil’ bud, you are bad at protecting yourself. Let me handle that from now on.” And he just absolutely melted with happiness. He instantly let go of all that stress and became the happiest little dog. We were ready to adopt him ourselves, until we got an application from a combat veteran with PTSD. When she came to meet him, he jumped right into her lap. She tilted her head back, eyes brimming with tears, and said, “I told God I needed help, and I think he sent you.” One of my all-time favorite moments as a fosterer.

  11. When my anxiety was really bad I went to the only cat shelter in town with only the decision that I wanted a black cat. Unfortunately the shelter only houses kittens and mother cats, I’ve honestly no opinion if we have any other sort of shelter in town. There were three black cats and I met this tiny black one who didn’t want to socialize but purred when he sat in my lap. I fell in love immediatly and was restless those weeks I had to wait for him. It’s been over a year and I have the sweetest cat in the world. He’s helped my anxiety and nightmares a ton. Originally he’s lay next to me and purr until I woke up from a nightmare but I guess that started taking too long, because now he steps on my throat and meows, waking me up immediatly. He’s honestly my best friend and I don’t think itd still be here without him.

    1. I love this comment so much. Aren’t animals just amazing? I cannot count the number of days where my pets were the only reason I got out of bed. Nothing lifts my mood more than seeing their dumb little faces light up just by pouring kibble into a bowl.

      You did a great thing adopting him. Especially because black animals are the hardest to adopt! It’s harder to get cute photos of them, so they’re very easily overlooked online. I wish you two many years of happiness!

  12. Working in a vet clinic, I see the worst of the worst vet bills. Kidney disease, thyroid disease, cancers, dental disease, disc disease, hip dysplasia, it all adds up.

    But the other day I saw a booth about senior dog fostering. You foster for life, and the organization takes care of all the bills, so you can have a little old man without fear of draining your account.

    1. Wow, that is an incredible program! That would definitely make adopting a senior less frightening. I’ve never seen one like it, but I’d love if that became a trend.

      I think it helps a lot to have a vet who’s very clear about their recommendations for treatment. I brought my 20 year old cat in, who was clearly ready to die, and my old vet recommended extraordinary measures–dialysis and radiation. I was so confused. Was treatment the right thing to do? Was I giving up on him too soon? I finally asked her, “What would you do, if he were your cat?” And she admitted she wouldn’t put him through all that.

      For this recent cat, I took her to a different vet, who said very clearly that meaningful recovery was unlikely and her recommendation was euthanasia later that day. She was so kind about it–she cried with us when we said goodbye. But she was firm and realistic, which I’m incredibly thankful for.

      Thank you so much for the work you do! I know it can be incredibly draining, stressful, and sad work. But I so appreciate the people who help keep my companions happy and healthy–including helping their lives end with minimal suffering.

  13. I got my beautiful 7 year old black cat Equinox at a shelter. She was found as a stray and was terrified of everything. She stayed under the dresser drawer they had in her room and it took me 2.5 hours to bond enough to get her to come out. They had a hard time getting her adopted.
    Once she got attached to me and used to my place, she blossomed. Like you say, if she has her basic needs met, all she really wants is to be around her people. She is the sweetest cat and is so low maintenance. I’m glad I was able to offer her a home before it was too late.
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/NcF5Na6ukLRWVMTp6

    My husband’s young cats however… frakking exhausting.

    1. Wahhhhhhh she is so beautiful!! So smokey, so fluffy. 10/10, would love, must pet.

      My senior was also initially very shy. She was losing weight and hair, just pure stress of the shelter environment. So they had her up in a staff member’s office upstairs where it’s quieter. They took us up to see her, and she was the queen of mixed signals. Look at us, hiss. Walk up to us, hiss. Climb into our laps, hiss. Purr, hiss. She was equal parts frightened and lonely. Once we were home and she absorbed twelve hours of quality under-the-bed time, she trotted out, tail high, meeping, thirsty af for pets. Gahhh, they really are the best!!

  14. What a beautiful post! Despite your promises to the contrary, it still made me tear up. We rescued an eight year old Siamese cat (to be a companion to our then-14 year old who we’ve had since she was a kitten, even though she really didn’t want a friend). Sadly, we only had six months with our rescue before she unexpectedly and suddenly died in January. Your comment about your cat dying on only one of the days you had her resonated with me. Our Lo opened our hearts in ways we never expected, which is one of the reasons the grief sucked so hard.

    To honor Lo in the best way we could, we adopted another senior kitty. I wholeheartedly agree with all of the benefits of senior pets. Thank you for sharing and for encouraging rescue!

  15. Thank you for this post! I did cry, just a little.
    I adopted a cat who had started hanging around my apartment complex– when we took him to the vet, he wasn’t chipped and the vet said he was at least ten. I’ve had him for over a year now and he’s one of the best things ever to have happened to me. He already understood the litter box, showed no interest in scratching furniture, and very quickly learned that waking me up early did not actually get him breakfast earlier. He spends his life sleeping in a sunbeam or cuddling– I’ve never known a cat to be as gentle and affectionate as he is– and doesn’t have any of the young cat problems like boundless energy or destructive tendencies. I do fear for the day he dies, but your comment on the subject really spoke to me.

  16. I found Erwin the cat living out of trash cans outside my apartment complex. When I first met him, I thought he was a female cat in heat, because he was crying so loudly and so despondently. I knelt down that first day and tried to coax him over, figuring he wouldn’t come; he barreled right over and purred and rubbed on my legs.

    We live in China, and this was in a more rural city, so there weren’t any shelters to take him to. I started feeding him, to make sure he wasn’t someone’s pet who had escaped, and when I was sure he wasn’t, I took him in. On our first trip to the vet, I found out that he’d been neutered at some point in the past, and that he was eight years old. I’d thought he was somewhere around two or three, and that I’d have to get him fixed! As best I can figure, he had lived with someone in my complex, and when they moved out, they’d abandoned him outside.

    Now he’s ten years old and fat and sassy, sharing my bed and couch and making sure there’s someone to greet me at the door everyday when I come home from work. Adopting him was one of the best choices I ever made; I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed having a cat until I had him, and he came broken in. I didn’t have to teach him to use a litter box, he scratches on his scratching posts or on cardboard boxes left specifically for him, and he knows I’ll come home every afternoon and spends his days sleeping peacefully.

    Adopt a senior! They’ll enrich your life in every way!

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