The Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog (or cat)


Puppy and Kitten

I have always had a pet in my life. I cannot imagine my life without them. My pets have always brought me much joy and unconditional love. Even when I’m old and gray I hope that I still have a loyal companion by my side through my “golden years”.

I will be the first person to tell you that puppies and kittens are undeniably adorable. Who doesn’t appreciate a fuzzy kitten pouncing around (especially that cute sideways hop that they do). Or a plump puppy running after a ball.

Animal Planet has a show called Too Cute! which is all about puppies and kittens. I cannot watch that show without wanting to run out to the local animal shelter and adopt a puppy and/or kitten (with five cats, a dog and Goldfish I think we’ve maxed out our adoptions for now).

They also have a Kitty Cam and Puppy Cam where you can watch the cuteness happen all day long.

I can tell you from experience that senior pets are just as wonderful as their younger counterparts.

I used to take photos of the available animals for adoption at our local animal shelter. I worked with animals young and old. I can’t even tell you how many older dogs and cats I worked with that were the sweetest, most loving and precious animals I have ever met.

Usually when you find a senior pet in the animal shelter it’s because their owner is either too old to care for them, their owner passed away or was place in a nursing home or their owner was forced to give them up for some other reason (foreclosure, illness, divorce…). These dogs and cats go from loving, happy homes to living in cages at the animal shelter. That is NOT where they belong.

Think about it. Imagine if you were a dog or cat and you spent your entire life with a family, living in a comfy home, enjoying the perfect life. Then one day you suddenly find yourself at the shelter, living in a cage and sleeping on the cold concrete floor. I cannot image what these poor animals think. I bet they think their owner abandoned them. That is just so horrible and breaks my heart.

Senior Dog

We have a 13 year old cat. He’s lived with us all his life, ever since he was a kitten. One of our fears was IF we were ever blessed to sell our condo and buy a house the move would kill him because all he’s ever known was our condo. We didn’t want to do that to him. So can you imagine what these poor senior animals must feel? It’s so sad!

There ARE benefits to adopting an older cat or dog. Our local animal shelter charges less for adoption fees. Plus chances are the dog or cat has already been spayed or neutered which is another money saver.

Older dogs are almost always housebroken. They are also not as wild and out of control as puppies are. They are passed the teething stage where they chew on everything.

Older pets are fully grown so there are no surprises as to how big they will get. My neighbors can testify to that. They adopted a Rottweiller puppy and were told he’d be about 50 pounds. He’s about 10 months old and 80+ pounds already and he keeps growing! I joke with them that they must be feeding him “Miracle Grow”. He’s a beast! His owners can barely control him because he’s 80+ pounds of pure muscle and a rambunctious puppy too.

Older pets are also more content to sit on your lap or by yourself rather than need to run around and burn off energy.

Here are some other great tips for you to consider.

Heidi Ganahl, CEO and Founder of Camp Bow Wow, North America’s largest and fastest growing pet care franchise, is offering a series of tips on  the “Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog,” in order to make the process easier for both prospective pet parents and the pooch.

Relax: Most of us live hectic lifestyles running from here to there all day long. Senior pets tend to have less energy and want lots of love, so what better way to end your day than to relax with your new best friend? It will do wonders for both of you.

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: Despite the common myth that you can’t train older dogs, older dogs actually learn quite well. Not only will doing some reward-based training help you and your new dog create a positive bond, it will also help keep your dog’s brain active and challenged.

Exercise: Every dog needs exercise, no matter how old they are, but senior dogs generally need to travel a shorter span before they get tired. This means both you and your new friend will get out and about together for some exercise, but you won’t need to travel the distances you would need to with a younger dog. 

You Make a Difference:  Most people want to adopt the younger pets at shelters, so senior dogs are frequently overlooked. Bringing a senior pet into your home will surely make that pet feel special. Knowing you are helping them live out the last years of their life with a loving family by their side and a warm bed to lay on will make a difference for them, and for you.

Do you have an older pet? Have you ever adopted an older pet?

If you are thinking about adopting stop by your local animal shelter or visit www.PetFinder.org to find adoptable animals in your area.

Please also consider adopting a “special needs” pet. PLEASE!

Special Needs Pets

I have two cats that would be considered “special needs”. Our oldest cat, Velcro, is diabetic and our youngest cat, Bella, has severe asthma, three leaky valves in her heart and thyroid issues.

Bella was a foster kitten that we took in for the local shelter. She had a sister whom we fostered too. Our “game plan” was to foster them until they were both old enough to be adopted. Sadly, Bella’s sister, Emma, had to be put to sleep when she was 3 weeks old. She had a disease and her lungs were filled with green fluid (I can’t remember what the disease was called). I was crushed! I only had that little life for three weeks and I was already heartbroken.

We kept Bella and cared for her until she was old enough to be adopted. After having her in our lives since she was one day old we couldn’t give her away. So we officially adopted her.

When she was about a year and a half old she got sick. At first we didn’t know what she had. After thousands of dollars in tests and vet visits we found out she had severe asthma. She also has three leaky valves in her heart and thyroid issues.

I often think about what if Bella was given back to the shelter to be adopted out? Would her new family have the money to take care of her medical needs? If not, would they give her back to the shelter where she would have to live out her life waiting for someone to adopt her (a special needs pet) or would the new owner put her to sleep to avoid the medical expense? I think about that often.

I think that is the reason why Emma had to die. I think her death is the reason why Bella came to be a part of our family. Had Emma lived we would have given both cats back to the shelter to be adopted out. Her death gave Bella a chance at life. It’s a struggle to afford the medical bills, but I find a way. I am determined to make sure all my pets live long, happy and healthy lives.

Do you have a pet story that involves a senior pet? Or perhaps a special needs pet? Feel free to leave a comment and tell me all about it.

Velcro (orange & white) with Diabetes using Bella (black & white) with severe asthma and other health issues as a pillow.

Velcro (orange & white) with Diabetes using Bella (black & white) with severe asthma and other health issues as a pillow.


*I was not compensated for this post. I am posting this for the benefit of animal everywhere.

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family and "mini zoo" consisting of five cats, a dog and a Goldfish. Kimberly is a teacher's assistant for a Kindergarten class. When she is not working or blogging, Kimberly enjoys taking photos of nature and hanging out with family and friends.


  1. courtney b says:

    im not saying i wouldnt but i never have.. probably a good idea, all kinds of older pets that need homes…

  2. It is wonderful that people are starting to adopt more older pets (I wish jobs more ppl would consider older ppl, too!).

  3. Elisabeth says:

    We have a Bella too! We got her from a friend when she was a kitten and she is like our baby. 🙂 I’d never considered adopting an older pet before but I think next time we get a pet we’ll do that!

  4. Sherrie C. says:

    I would highly recommend adopting older pets to anyone. Years ago I adopted a Cocker Spaniel mix from the Orange country animal shelter. At the time she was over five years old and they were planning on putting her down because nobody had showed any interest in her. Everyone just seemed to want a puppy. I was on vacation at the time and made a spur of the moment choice to adopt her. Best choice I ever made. She was a wonderful pet. Very loving and sweet and all of the family adored her until she passed away in 2011 from cancer at age 13. We had her for eight years and have wonderful memories of her. I would definitely consider adopting an older pet again. Thanks for this post 🙂

  5. Richard Hicks says:

    I love this article. Older dogs or cats make great pets and they are usually well trained

  6. Mother Nature makes babies (of all species) cute so that they aren’t killed by their parents when they do stupid things. I’d much rather have an animal that has calmed down from the puppy/kitten stage.

  7. alicia k (Petite Pilates Pixie) says:

    good points. everyone only wants the little ones but the elders have their good aspects too!

  8. kathy dalton says:

    My sister recently adopted a ten year old alaskan malamute who was abandoned. Misty is her best friend. She is totally trained and sleeps with her and its great.

  9. When I was younger my parents adopted a old dog. It was a poodle and needed a good home with kids. She was a great dog and took to our house with no problems. Older pets are house trained so that helped a lot.

  10. I can vouch for the benefits of adopting an older dog. When his elderly owner passed away, we brought Dusty into our home, and he was the sweetest old dogie-man you could imagine. We had him for many good years. I’ll never get a puppy or kitten again (on purpose, anyway).

  11. christina moore says:

    Good points, I have one inside cat, he is 4 years old, and 5 outside cats that I take care of. I had two inside cats that lived to be 17 and 19 years old, it is so hard when you lose them.

  12. I adopted a cat that the owner was going to put to sleep because she couldn’t handle giving the cat shots for Diabetes. I don’t know how old Romeo was at the time but we had no problem giving him his injections. He lived for 2+ years with us. He was a sweet cat.

  13. That dog in the photo is precious.

    I’m all for getting an older dog. I’d rather have a calmer and hopefully housebroken dog anyday. Puppies are too much for me.
    Wendy T recently posted..My Story

  14. I am so glad you made this post-I wish I could have every person that comes into the shelter adopt read this. Older pets have something extra special that I just can’t put into words, sadly we get a lot of pets returned to the shelter because people had just wanted a cute kitten/puppy and then it grows a bit, makes messes and needs to be housebroken and suddenly it’s not so cute to them anymore-and the back and forth is very hard on the poor animal. My guys are all almost 7, four are siblings and one is blind in one eye, and my 5th girl has occular seizures. I adopted her as a kitten at work, they were considering putting her down, now she lives a happy life with minimal problems. Special needs and elderly pets will change your life forever-in a wonderful way-as you know! 🙂

  15. I’m 100% behind adopting older pets. I adopted an older cat and he’s one of the best pets I’ve ever had.

  16. If we decide to get another pet I would definitely get a senior pet.
    Denise Taylor-Dennis recently posted..Giveaways I’m Entering August 3, 2013

  17. kristin sims says:

    More people in this world need to read this post…..I volunteer twice a week at our local non kill shelter. 90 percent of people who come in do not want anything to do with some of our “grown” dogs and cats. It is a shame, I have adopted six dogs and three cats…all adults that I finally felt so sorry for…..yes i have a zoo. 🙂

  18. Karen Glatt says:

    I wish I could adopt a Senior Dog or cat, maybe someday. I have a Senior dog right now, and I would love to get another dog when I can. I think it is very important to help Senior dogs and cats get a home and be loved. They need a lot of our love!

  19. I like Pearl S. Buck’s quote that could apply to animals:

    “Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.”
    Sarah recently posted..Must Have Mustard

  20. I would absolutely adopt a senior pet. Every animal deserves a loving home and family.

  21. Kyla Ocain says:

    Good points. I wish I could take them all home 🙁

  22. I cared for my senior dog for many years: meds, incontinence, arthritis, deaf, blind. I’m a RN and it was a chore and hard to let go at the end.

  23. Mary Fagans says:

    I have 4 cats that have been with me their whole life and I can’t imagine the fear they would feel if I had to give them up. When it is their time to go to the Rainbow Bridge I probably will adopt a couple older cats from our local shelter, they have so many that need a good and loving home.