Adopting older cats: what you need to know

Thinking of adopting an older cat? Get the facts about older cats, and discover the benefits of welcoming a more mature moggie to your home, with the help of Blue Cross senior behaviourist Claire Stallard.


Older cats aren’t always top of people’s wish lists when it comes to getting a new pet – many owners prefer a tiny, playful kitten. This means that adult and senior cats, that are every bit as deserving of a forever home, are often overlooked. But for the right family, they could be an even better fit. So what should you bear in mind if you’re considering getting an older cat? Read on to find out.

You know what you’re getting with an older cat

If you’re adopting an older cat, getting to know them will be that much easier, as their characters will be fully formed. If you rehome a cat from an animal shelter or rescue charity, chances are the staff will have information on cats’ backgrounds, or have been closely observing their personalities.

Claire Stallard at Blue Cross says: ‘A rescue charity will be able to advise on whether a cat in their care would suit a busy or quiet household. You’ll know if they’re sociable or shy; if they like to be touched and made a fuss of, or prefer to be left alone; and whether or not they would fit in well with a family that has children.’

Older cat vs kitten: which suits your home?

Older adult cats have lower energy levels and tend to be a calm presence around the home. While kittens are more likely to scratch your furnishings, climb your curtains and wake you at all hours, a senior cat is typically more content to snuggle up with you on the sofa.

Kittens need care and attention, but middle-aged and senior cats tend to be more independent and happy to be left to their own devices while you’re not around. Which makes them a great addition to busy households who are always out and about, but also easy company for those spending most of their time at home. Plus, chances are, they’re already house-trained.

Health and life expectancy in senior cats

Domestic cats are now living much longer than they used to, thanks to advances in their care; sometimes as long as 20 years. So even if you adopt a senior cat of 11 years or more, you may well have many happy years to come.

Like the rest of us, cats are more likely to experience health problems as they age, from stiff joints to dementia. They need your care and support to stay healthy. Older cats still need to be vaccinated regularly, as their immunity can decline in later life.

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Introducing an older cat to your home

Older cats come with a past, which may determine how they’re rehomed. For example, Blue Cross advises that cats that are used to going outside won’t cope well as indoor cats. On the other hand, elderly cats whose roaming days are done may favour an indoor life.

Generally, you don’t need to treat an older cat very differently to a young one when introducing her to your home or to your other cats. ‘Whatever their age, you need to take things slowly, at the cat’s pace,’ says Claire.

An old cat is likely to snooze away even more of the day than their younger counterparts, and will particularly appreciate having several warm, cosy and well-padded sleeping beds around the house.

Senior cats often still enjoy a high perch, but their decreasing agility can make these harder to reach. Help them out with a carefully placed ramp or stool.

Similarly, even cats that have always toileted outdoors may welcome an indoor litter tray in later life, as they stick closer to home.

Do older cats need a different diet?

It’s normal for older cats to eat a bit less than they used to. As they age, cats learn to regulate their intake of food, and graze throughout the day.

Some pet food brands offer special food for older cats aged seven or more, with nutrients that are beneficial to their age group (and often fewer calories).

A rescue shelter will advise you whether a cat has any special health or dietary requirements – such as missing teeth that make it harder to chew dry food.

Give an older cat a new lease of life

Finding a place in your home and heart for an older cat can be a hugely rewarding experience for both of you. ‘There are so many reasons why an older cat can be a perfect companion,’ says Claire. ‘Plus, you’re giving it the chance of a second home – and it means a shelter can help even more animals in need.’

If you know someone who’s thinking of getting an older cat, why not pass on this article using the share buttons below? Or if you’ve got an adorable senior cat who deserves a shoutout, post them on our Facebook page or Instagram using #PethoodStories – we’d love to share their story!


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