Animal shelters far and wide have been emptied as people rush to foster pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dogs old and young have found, at worst, a temporary – and presumably, loving sanctuary… and at best, a foster-fail situation (that’s when the foster family adopts the animal themselves because they loved it so much they didn’t want to see it go). Although most of the stories I’ve seen have been centered around dogs, one can only hope that cats are feeling the same outpouring of compassion. This got me thinking about pet adoption in general. Although, to be fair, it doesn’t take much to get me thinking about pet adoption (which is why I’ve always had so many animals!).
Not everyone of course, but in general, when people are looking to adopt, they always seem to go for the animals that are the cutest, and the youngest. The little doe-eyed beagle tripping over his ears while running after his sibling. Or that rambunctious little long-haired kitten batting whimsically at that larger-than-it-is ball of yarn while two other little cuties follow it back and forth in their cage.
But what about the older or the not so cute dogs or cats? Maybe a one-eyed pug, or a cat with half a tail. Sure, they might need a little extra care, but what else were you going to do with your life? Something boring, I’m sure, and nothing as emotionally satisfying as saving your new best friend.
People tend to think that older animals come with “baggage,” but seriously, who doesn’t? Not to mention, have these folks ever even tried to housetrain a puppy? Or get thru puppyhood with all their shoes and other household items intact? I know I’ve lost a pillow set or two, and one time, even a chair, in my years of raising fur babies.
Don’t even get me started about kittens that tear up the curtains learning to climb. Or finding all the aglets on my shoes nibbled on. (Fun fact: it wasn’t too long ago that I learned an aglet is the little plastic piece on the end of your shoelace. Knowledge is power, stay thirsty my friends.) Or searching for that lost kitten who found its way behind the cabinets or into the ceiling (true story).
My daughter found a kitten in the stairwell of our condo building a few months ago. Of course, being her mother’s daughter, she brought it into our home. We took the wayward waif (a girl, by the way) to the vet, had her checked for a microchip (nope), and then started canvassing our building and the surrounding buildings looking for an owner. I may have said this before, but I need another pet like I need a hole in my head, no matter how cute they may be, so trust me when I say, our search was thorough. The owner was duly found the next day – they were ecstatic to have her back in the fold (not so ecstatic about my microchip lecture, I’m sure), and all was right with the world once more. However, this foray into unexpected kitten-sitting reminded me that babies are hard. They’re nerve-wracking and exhausting and you worry about what they’re getting into. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a kitten in the house, and I had forgotten just how much trouble they get into. They’re either on or they’re off, there’s no in-between. And when they’re on, you have to be on your toes. All. The. Time.
Sometimes there are good reasons to go for a younger animal and I’m not judging anyone who prefers to start from scratch when adding a new member to their family. I’m just saying, consider your other choices. Sure, older animals might come with some emotional baggage, as I said, but let’s face it, so do we. The truth is, they just want love and security and a place to call their forever home, but then again, so do we.
Bonus: in many cases, the older generation already knows how to play fetch or has their running game on point for that morning jog you like to take, or they’re already the perfect couch potato for that Netflix lifestyle you’ve got going on.
Not to mention, you’ll be counteracting what their previous owners did by dumping them, so there’s a bit of karmic brownie points there to be had. And who doesn’t need extra brownie points in life? Plus, older animals, like older people, still have a lot of life in them, so don’t overlook them … you might be missing out on the friendship of a lifetime.