Anyone who has ever lived with a puppy or a kitten knows that all that cuteness comes at a price. Baby animals are high energy, often destructive, and almost always extra messy. Don't get me wrong, a lifetime relationship with a companion animal can be something really special – but it requires a level of attention and sacrifice that isn't always possible. When my husband, Scott, and I adopted our dog, Gracie, we were in our early twenties and pretty much overwhelmed with the most basic aspects of adulting. Things like paying bills on time, grocery shopping, and changing the oil in our cars took up the majority of our brain power. When we decided to bring a dog into our lives I knew right away that a puppy wouldn't be the best choice.
Instead, we opted for an older dog. Gracie was about three when we adopted her, and even at that age she still very much a puppy. We had a hard time keeping up with her needs for the first two years, but after she turned five she started to mellow out and become a really great dog. Five year old Gracie could go off-leash without pulling a disappearing act. She could lounge around the house or the yard – content to be with us without having to be all over us. She listened to commands. She put up with our crazy lifestyle. She was calmer, easier, and happier. Those years between five and twelve were Gracie's sweet spot. Those were the years I'll look back on and remember long after Gracie leaves us.
These days when we think about adopting another dog I still find myself unable to take on a puppy. While our adulting skills have improved considerably (we are still far from experts but I like to think we've made some strides) we are pretty much maxed out between having a toddler and running our own business. Scott still pines for a puppy but I'm leaning the other direction. When we are finally ready to add another pet to our family I hope to find a dog on the more mature side of the spectrum. I'd like to adopt a dog who is well out of her puppyhood and settled firmly in the sweet spot. If you are considering adopting a cat or dog soon I encourage you to do the same. Here are a few reasons that I think senior pets are the way to go.
Well developed personalities. While any pet's behavior may change once they settle into a home it does seem much easier to get to know a mature dog than a puppy. Just like human adolescents, puppies are still figuring out who they are. Adopting an older cat or dog can help make finding the personality that matches your family much more simple. Is he aloof or cuddly? Social or shy? How does he get along with kids? It can be really helpful to find this stuff out before taking your new friend home.
Manageable energy levels. Whether you are a couch potato or a marathon runner it can be really challenging to keep up with a puppy or young dog. While older dogs are often still wily enough for a jog or a hike they don't tend to require them quite as often as a puppy does. As for cats, have you ever seen a kitten single-handedly destroy a living room? I have. It's cute for the first minute or so, then not so much. It's way better to bring a cat into your life with a higher nap to play ratio.
Less Destructive. Speaking of energy levels, much of an adolescent pet's angst comes out in the form of wonton destruction. Are they lonely? Goodbye sofa! Are they annoyed? So long shoes! Maybe they are just bored or hungry? Adios prized possessions!
Cuddles! This point is especially true when it comes to cats. I've found that cats tend to be much more aloof in their early years. It took even the most cuddly cats I've known at least two years to really become affectionate. Before that they were way too busy shredding furniture and knocking over figurines. Puppies are plenty affectionate right from the get-go but their affection often includes nips, bites, and wiz. Spooning an older dog is much less messy.
Less Training. Not all older pets have had training but it's actually pretty easy to find a cat that is already housebroken or a dog that listens to basic commands like "sit" or "stay". Unless training dogs really interests you (like a full-time hobby) than you will probably love skipping the grueling job of teaching a dog to speak English. I know I did.
Housebroken. Again, there are some pets who due to neglect or maybe a medical condition aren't housebroken by maturity, but for the most part adopting an older pet helps avoid or reduce the frequency of "accidents". This is especially helpful if you live in a home with carpets or laminate floor.
Verified cuteness. This might make me sound like a jerk but the truth is that not every cute puppy becomes a cute dog. If cuteness is a dealbreaker for you than adopting an older pet actually makes a lot of sense. You know how they look as an adult because they are already there!
Partner in crime. Can we go back to the whole energy-level thing? I know some people want a dog who can run marathons and leap tall buildings and all that but I bet that what most people REALLY want is a dog who will lay down on the couch and watch TV with them. Older dogs are so perfect for this. They won't judge you for binge watching Netflix or interrupt your afternoon nap for a frisbee break. And older cats? Please. They're so lazy they will make YOU feel productive by comparison.
Unconditional love. Not judging your television binge is just one of many ways that a pet can make you feel loved. Because older pets have the benefit of wisdom and experience they tend to recognize when they've got it good. Bringing home a senior pet means bringing home a best friend for life.
They need you. The fact is that older pets are often passed over in shelters or at rescues. These cats and dogs could be facing a death sentence without someone like you to come and adopt them. Puppies and kittens have a much better chance of adoption than an older pet. You'll be doing Fido or Fluffy a real solid by springing them from the pound!