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. Although she had it really rough once, 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.
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. Right. Riiiiigghhht.
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?!
- Pet Insurance: Is It Worth It?
- 30 Pets Ranked for Financial Efficiency by Cold, Unfeeling Human Overlords
- So I Got Chickens, Part 1: Return on Investment
- So I Got Chickens, Part 2: Tragedies and Lessons Learned
- and So I Got Chickens, Part 3: Baby’s First Egg
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—that last article is my all-time personal favorite. Such research! Much spreadsheets! All the 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!