I get it. I squee whenever I see a kitten, with their big heads and little bodies and curious, adventurous spirits. They are just too cute! How can you NOT want to take them home?! And if you’re an older adult, you might even think that their playful antics will infuse some much-desired youthfulness into your otherwise quiet home.

KITTENS ARE FUN, BUT…

But many older folks come to find that having a kitten in the household causes more stress than they expected. After all, kittens are generally high-energy, demanding lots of play time or else they find things to play with on their own, sometimes causing mischief in the process. Plus, kittens haven’t exactly learned their manners yet. (I’ve had kittens jump on my back while I was cleaning their little box, swing from my curtains, “hunt” my feet under the blanket, and stalk and pounce on my older cats for fun.) And then, of course, kittens are still figuring out who they are. You may adopt a kitten expecting they will mellow out after a year only to find that the kitten grows up to be a high-energy or high-stress adult.

SENIOR CATS HAVE A LOT TO OFFER

Senior cats (10 years or older) tend to be calmer, though many are still quite active and playful. Generally, 20-30 mins of playtime is enough to keep a senior cat happy and engaged, and if you have mobility issues, you can even play with them while you sit using a kitty wand or laser toy. Many senior cats enjoy sleeping with, near or on their person, giving you lots of cuddle time. And by the time a cat is a senior, they have developed their personality, so what you see is what you get. Finally, the best part is that when you adopt a senior cat from a shelter or sanctuary, you will know that you are providing a safe, loving home for a cat who was abandoned or who lived a challenging outdoor life.

Now, I have had some people tell me that they weren’t interested in adopting a senior cat because their “heart couldn’t handle it” if they lost their companion too soon. But I’ll tell you what, I have had four senior cats in my adult life, three I have had to say goodbye to, and the pain of losing them was nothing compared to the joy I felt knowing that they lived out the rest of their lives being loved and, in turn, loving me. And if you are a senior yourself, and you think such a loss would cause you grief, imagine adopting a kitten who ends up outliving you. Suddenly that cat will lose the only home, the only family, they have ever known, and they won’t understand why they are suddenly in a shelter or in a stranger’s home without you.

CREATE A LONG-TERM PLAN BEFORE ADOPTING

Regardless of whether you choose to share your home with a kitten, adult or senior cat, it’s important to make sure you have a long-term plan in place before adopting. Be sure you can answer these questions before you open your home — and your heart — to a new furry feline:

  • Can I afford the basic necessities for a kitty, such as litter, food and routine medical care? (If not, and you still want to adopt, talk to the shelter or sanctuary. They may have a program that would help fund the cat’s care. Or, you could be a foster parent to the cat, and the shelter or sanctuary may take care of all expenses.)
  • What kind of a cat am I looking for? For example, do you want a calmer kitty or can you handle one who has lots of energy?
  • Can I provide enough stimulation for an indoor cat? If you’re unsure, consider adopting two kitties, or better yet, a bonded pair.
  • Who will help care for my cat if I develop mobility issues?
  • Who will take care of my cat if I become ill and require a hospital or nursing home stay?
  • Who will take care of my cat if I pass away?

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cats are wonderful companions for older adults. Studies have shown that cats can help ease feelings of loneliness and depression. They are more independent and generally easier to care for than other animals, such as dogs. And while adopting a cat of any age is a wonderful, loving gesture, it is important for you to carefully consider whether a senior cat may be more appropriate for you at this stage of your life.

Have you had the joy of living with and loving a senior cat? Please share your experience below in the comments!

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