In this final article in the 4-part series, Rita discusses the various ages of cats and how to choose the right one for you!
Part 4 – Adopting Senior Cats or Special Needs Cats
Perhaps the most overlooked cats at rescues and shelters are, by far, those senior cats and special needs cats.
Most people don’t think to consider them, wary of the popular misconception that behavioral or medical conditions come along with them. While some of them may have such issues, most of them do not, finding themselves in need of new homes through no fault of their own.
When a senior cat is in need of a new home, often it is because their humans have passed away or are now in a nursing home. Sadly, sometimes these wonderful creatures have been cast aside because their owners have allergies, have a new significant other in their lives, or have decided for whatever reason they just no longer want the cat. Unfortunately, most of these sweet kitties will never again know the love and security they once had, and will live out their days sad and alone.
Senior Cats, Special Needs Cats, and You
Why should you consider adopting senior cats? For one, it might be their last opportunity to find a new forever home with loving arms to hold and cuddle them. These wonderful senior cats still have a lot of love to give, and believe it not they know and appreciate it when they are given that second chance. Senior kitties are quiet and settled; they won’t get into everything in sight, they keep themselves clean, and they know how to use a litter box.
The first senior cat I ever adopted was an 11-year-old named Pickles, who has been with me for two years now. Her owner had passed away, and Pickles was very depressed at the shelter. Usually a self-assured and sassy calico/tortie, that personality was dimming the longer she was sitting at the shelter. It was her literal last day on earth when I saw her picture on a social media sight, having been posted by a rescue acquaintance of mine. Something in her eyes spoke to me, and I couldn’t turn my back. I adopted her just a couple hours later.
My senior cats are by far the easiest transitions into my “cat pack” that I have ever experienced. They almost never hiss or swat the other cats, and my other cats seem to respect their elders. At times, I see my seniors sitting quietly and I wonder if they’re thinking about their past owners. Some of them can loners and enjoys napping by themselves or occasionally cuddling with one of the other cats. Sometimes they will suddenly come to sit on my chest and give me nose kisses; I know they are thanking me for saving their lives.
Choosing Your Newly Adopted Senior or Special Needs Cat
There aren’t many cats at this stage of life that fall into that high voltage category that we see in younger cats. But senior cats can and do play! In fact just the other night, my 15-year-old Missy began batting a toy and hopping around in the kitchen chasing after it. While these moments are fewer and further between with older cats, they do still happen.
Should a senior cat catch your eye, spend some one on one time with her to see how she interacts with you. See if you can get the cat to play with you using a wand type toy or get her to accept a few treats. If she interacts with you immediately, this indicates a self-assured cat that will bond with you, given some time to get acclimated once you get her home.
When adopting senior cats, do remember that unlike kittens who mostly take things in stride, the senior cat is probably very stressed, and therefore may need more time to warm up to you. If you can sit her on your lap and pet her, getting some purrs and nuzzles in return, that is another good sign she will bond with relative ease once you get her home. Senior cats that tuck their faces under your arms or tremble at you touch tend to be shy and/or scared, and will probably take longer to get used to you. It just takes time; cat time not human time.
Like senior cats, cats with special needs (FiV, Diabetes, Missing limbs, etc) are often overlooked when it comes to adoptions. But they are some of the sweeties cats around. There is a special bond with cats who needs medications or special care, a deep love grows on both sides.
At Home with Your Senior Cat or Special Needs Cat
When I adopted my Pickles, the first thing I did was take her to my vet to have a senior panel done. This is a blood test that checks for everything from sluggish thyroid to diabetes. Pickles was a bit overweight, so I was concerned we might have something going on. Her tests all came back perfect; she had absolutely no medical issues at all. Some senior cats may have medical issues, although most can be handled with proper diet and/or medication.
Another thing to consider; an older cat could have some arthritis or just not be as good at jumping up onto things as his younger brethren. A tall cat tree that is fun for a younger cat might be completely ignored by an older one because of her physical limitations. Instead, offer shorter cat trees, windowsill perches, and kitty cubby holes for your senior to curl up in.
By the way, older kitties make wonderful nap companions!
With senior cats, you often don’t know their full histories. Some have been through a lot of negative experiences and emotional trauma, so it might take some extra time and patience to earn their complete trust. But once you do, you will have a devoted cat companion who is happy to snuggle up at your side for the rest of her life.
Adopting senior cats just might be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.