Adopt a Senior Pet Month: Plenty of life, love left in older animals

There’s undeniably nothing as cute as a puppy or kitten. Most people are enamored by the smell of “puppy breath” as well as the high-pitched “meow” of a purring kitten.

The cuteness can often lose its luster when owners realize the level of responsibility that comes with caring for young animals. While most experts recommend crate-training for puppies, it can be accompanied by middle-of-the-night bathroom trips, whimpering and howling.

Despite those challenges, puppies and kittens are generally the first to be adopted. They’re cute, young enough to be trained and have a lot of life ahead of them.

A tan dog plays outside while a black dog stands outside a nearby fence.

Mavis, a brown-and-white hound/pit mix plays outside at Huntsville Animal Services. Though she’s 5 years old, she still has plenty of spring in her step.

Fortunately, senior pets account for only a small percentage of Huntsville Animal Services’ (HAS) daily population. Though they’re fewer in number, Director Dr. Karen Sheppard said it’s just as important to find loving homes for them.

“We generally have seven or eight senior dogs and one or two senior cats,” she said. “Fortunately, most people keep senior dogs, but the ones that are here often have a longer stay.”

Disregarding older pets is a common mistake. Sheppard said the month of November – National Adopt a Senior Pet Month – presents an opportunity to talk about the benefits of older pets compared to their younger counterparts.

Where they come from

Some senior pets arrived as strays, though others were surrendered because care could not be provided due to illness or financial hardship.



To encourage potential adopters and fosters, HAS offers programs specifically geared toward senior pets. One of the programs, “Vintage Tuesdays,” waives adoption fees on all animals ages 5 and older. HAS also offers a sponsorship program for anyone willing to foster an animal with health challenges. The shelter provides vaccinations, medications and affordable health care.

“We just need someone to love them, feed them and take care of them,” Sheppard said.

Benefits of older pets

There are plenty of differences between young and more “seasoned” animals, including the occasional accident on the road to being fully housetrained. Kittens tend to quickly take to a litter box, but rarely give a second thought to clawing at upholstery. Likewise, puppies have little regard for furniture, pillows, chair legs and shoes.

A black cat with yellow eyes is wrapped in a blue and green blanket.

Jilly, a black female cat, was surrendered to Huntsville Animal Services after her owner had to move. At 9 years old, she’s sweet and loving.

This is why older pets can be a welcome addition to any home. Most are already housetrained and have grown out of the destructive tendencies of puppies and kittens. Many older dogs can also walk well on a leash and might even know a trick or two.

“In general, they are well-mannered and beloved pets,” Sheppard said.

Other perks include:

  • Low energy: Senior dogs rarely have the stamina to play fetch for hours on end and prefer a leisurely stroll instead. They’re also just as happy to laze on the couch or in their owner’s lap.
  • Low maintenance: Puppies and kittens are generally curious and often put their noses, paws and mouths where they don’t belong. Older pets don’t require around-the-clock monitoring and are quick to let an owner know if they’re hungry or need to be let out.
  • Calm: Young dogs and cats can often be hyper, but senior pets are much calmer. This often makes them better with not only children, but also other animals.
  • New tricks: Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Older dogs are generally more focused and attentive, which makes them quick learners.
A large dog sniffs the grass next to a fenced area.

Smoke, a large mixed breed sniffs around outside Huntsville Animal Services. At a little more than 5 years old, shelter officials have deemed him to be “such a good dog.”

Huntsville Animal Services, located at 4950 Triana Blvd., has dogs and cats of all ages in need of a good home. The shelter is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. HAS will be closed Nov. 25-26 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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