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Cute little face vs. Wisdom and grace – why you may want to consider adopting an older cat

Kittens are undoubtably cute, but can be harder work than you think.

Kittens are undoubtably cute, but can be harder work than you think.

I walked into the house after a particularly long day at work and was greeted by the shredded roll of toilet paper that lay strewn across my living room floor like some sort of white paper carpet laid out to welcome me.  I followed the bits through the house and into the bathroom, where my kitten was proudly finishing off the cardboard roll.  Right then and there I swore I would never get a kitten again.  But then she looked up from her kill and gave me the most loveable little meow with a face that just oozed how happy she was to see me.  I was almost fooled but quickly regained my senses as I remembered that that was my last roll of toilet paper.  Never again.

Then again, who can resist that tiny little fluffy wuffy kitten face when it looks up at you and mews, “I’m so cute, love me now!”? (which is approximately 3.7 seconds before it attaches itself to your trouser leg and claws its way up onto your shoulder and into your life for the next 20 years.)  However, I have recently had the privilege of adopting an older cat and must say I may have been converted. 

11 year old Maddy

11 year old Maddy

Maddy is an 11 year old tabby who walked gracefully into my home 4 months ago after her owner, one of my clients, found out that her baby was severely allergic to cats.  Maddy’s transition into my family has not been perfect as these things never are, but it has been significantly easier and less stressful than my most recent kitten acquisition.  And it is because of her that I thought I might mention some of the benefits of bringing an older cat into your life.

Why adopt an older cat?

  • For starters, everybody else wants a kitten.  Kittens are much more likely to be adopted from shelters, leaving behind the equally lovely and cuddly but not quite so cute older cats.  The older the cat, the harder it is for them to find a new home.  They remember how nice their life used to be and may find life in a cage difficult, making them all the more grateful to the kind person who does eventually take them home.
  • Kittens are adorable, but crazy!  If you have nice things in your house that you would prefer to keep in one piece, a kitten running up and down your shelves may not be for you.  If you adopt an older cat, they have probably already matured beyond the curtain climbing years and you are much more likely to be able to sleep though the night without disruption. If you are looking for someone to share peaceful, quiet evenings at home, an older cat could be perfect for you.
  • Adult cats have already developed their personality, so you have a better idea of how they might fit into your family.  If you absolutely must have a lap cat, this is probably your best bet.
  • Contrary to what you may have heard, older cats are not usually given up to shelters because of undesirable characteristics like behavioural problems.  More often, it is due to real or perceived allergies to the cat, death of the owner, divorce, new babies, or moving house.  There are of course exceptions, but most older cats come from happy homes that just aren’t able to keep them anymore so the chance of taking on somebody else’s problem cat is not as high as you may think.
  • Adult cats have probably already been spayed or castrated and may be up to date on their vaccinations, sparing you the cost and stress associated with these procedures.
  • Kittens require constant supervision and attention, whereas older cats are much more self-sufficient.  They are usually already litter trained and used to going outdoors.  They know how to amuse themselves but can also be loads of fun and just as willing to play with you too.
  • Finally, an older cat may be the perfect option for an elderly owner.  Having a sensible, loving adult feline companion can help prevent loneliness and has even been shown to decrease stress levels.  Trying to keep a kitten from bouncing off the walls and ceilings may have quite the opposite effect!

Choose the right cat for you

Adopting an older cat can be a very rewarding experience, but it is not always the right decision either.  There is always a chance that an adult cat may not adjust well if you already have a cat, dog or young children in the house depending on their previous experiences with these other creatures.  If they have already reached their senior years, they may have or soon develop medical problems.  Depending on their age, they may also be more expensive to insure for future medical expenses.

But remember, an ‘older cat’ can mean anything that has outgrown that irresistible kitten phase, from 18 months to 18 years, boys and girls, tabbies to gingers, fluffy to sleek, lap cats to avid hunters.  The most important thing is that you choose the right cat for you and your own family, house and lifestyle, and that you consider all of your options before rushing into a life-changing decision. 

You may still decide that you can’t live without that adorable little ball of fluff, which is certainly understandable, but I’d recommend you first take a look at the older cat next door who may not be able to live without you.

And if you do decide to go for the kitten, make sure you keep an adequate supply of toilet paper!

If you are concerned about your cat or kittens health, please contact your vet or use our interactive Cat Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.

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