Mature pet, mature owner
Are you considering having a pet in your life? Dr Jo discusses adoption of adult and senior pets… As we age, retire from work and our children are busy with their own lives, an animal companion can be a great addition to your home and life. If, however, the thought of house-training a puppy or putting up with kitten capers is a little daunting, the solution may be to adopt an older animal.
Shelters are full of adult and senior animals looking for homes. Too often, people mistakenly believe that these animals have been surrendered due to health or behaviour problems, but this is not always the case. Many dogs and cats are placed in shelters through no fault of their own. Simply, their owners had to move overseas or into non-pet-friendly accommodation and their pet, sadly, had to be relinquished.
There are some animals, however, who do have special needs or require some rehabilitation. If you are an experienced pet owner and/or have time and patience to commit to a special needs animal, this can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Animal shelters do a great job of rehoming pets, but it’s often the adorable puppies and kittens that are snapped up in a flash. Older animals must wait until the right person comes along and this can take a while – in some cases, animals have unfortunately lived out the remainder of their life in a shelter.
Adult and senior pets have many benefits, including:
- You know the size of the adult animal. No surprises when the tiny pup grows into a 50kg adult! You will also have a good idea of their grooming and exercise requirements.
- Most adult animals arrive already house or litter-box trained.
- Any behavioural issues will be evident already and most shelters will have dealt with these or can, at least, make you aware of what they are and how to approach the issue.
- Older pets do not need to be exercised as much as younger ones. All animals benefit from physical and mental exercise, however, so ensure you can still provide this.
- Senior pets tend to be less destructive than young puppies and kittens. No shredding of curtains, chewing of sofas, and so on!
- Adult pets have a lot of love to give, and need a family to bond with as much as a puppy. Most love attention, including a lap to sit on and a cuddle.
When choosing a pet it’s important to match the animal to your lifestyle – this means choosing the size and the energy of the pet that suits you. Shelters should be able to help you with this, in addition to ensuring that the new pet gets along with any existing pets in your family.
Here are some pointers, if you are considering adopting an animal…
Check online or call the shelter
Most shelters and pounds now list their available cats and dogs online. This gives you the opportunity to ensure that the age, size and/ or breed of pet you are considering is available. Alternatively, you can call the shelter to discuss your requirements.
Visit the shelter
Shelters and pounds can be overwhelmingly emotional experiences, as you walk past rows and rows of unwanted animals. Be prepared to shed a few tears and stay firm in your decision to choose a pet that is a good fit for your lifestyle. It’s just as vital to the animal as it is to you that it works out!
Questions and answers
The shelter staff should able to help answer any questions you have about particular pets. Many conduct behavioural assessments on animals in their care and they may ask you to complete a questionnaire about your lifestyle. This is to ensure the best possible match for the animals in their care.
Take time with your decision
You may feel guilty that you did not find the pet of your dreams on your shelter visit. It’s fine to leave without a pet. It’s also acceptable to spend an hour with an animal, then return home to think about your decision. This animal could spend many years with you, so taking time to make a decision is in your best interest and that of the pet. Even if you have not found your perfect match this visit, you can guarantee there will be new pets available next time you visit.
Be prepared at home
If you should find a suitable pet, you will need to set up at home prior to your purchase. Purchase a pet bed, food and water bowls, a collar, a lead (for dogs), a litter tray (for cats), food, treats and toys and have a quiet area of your home set aside for the new family member. Some shelters offer these items.
All going well
Most adopted pets quickly settle in and become part of the family. Let the shelter know that everything has progressed well. Shelters love success stories so be sure to let them know and share some photos of your pet enjoying their new home. Share your experience with The Retiree too!
Enjoy your new pet and give yourself a pat on the back for giving an unwanted animal a home!
Success story: Erika&Sassi
Erika Kaunert, 87, adopted Sassi, now 15 and in her twilight years, as a mature dog of six or seven years. Sassi was a thin, anxious dog who was not used to being indoors. Now she is robust, enjoys beach walks with Erika and sleeps in the bedroom! Erika still lives in her own home and is well known in her neighbourhood due to her regular walks out with Sassi. Although Sassi is now deaf, the bond between her and Erika remains profound. Sassi gives Erika exercise, social contact and great personal joy.
Erika says, “Sassi is the perfect companion, it is wonderful to have her lying by my side in the evenings. It is a comfortable feeling to know she will alert me to anything unusual. We are very fond of each other… dogs like Sassi need a bit of extra love and care to know they are safe again. We are just right together, she helps me make conversation and make new friends”.
About Dr Jo
Dr Jo Righetti is an animal behaviour consultant who helps people understand pets and any behavioural issues they may have. Her website www.petproblemsolved.com.au has lots of advice on pets. Dr Jo is a proud Ambassador of Animal Welfare League Australia (AWLA).
Kaunert with her adopted senior Kelpie, Sassi For more information about positive ageing in the company of animals, visit www.petfriendlyagedcare.com.au