The Ultimate Guide To Adopting An Older Cat

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If you’re considering adding a senior cat to your family, congratulations! This is a wonderful step to take in not only providing a loving home to a kitty who might otherwise be looked over, but also to gifting yourself a loving companion. Adopting a senior cat is a very rewarding experience. This post is your ultimate guide to bringing home your new older cat.

older cat

Preparing for her arrival can really make the transition super smooth. There are a few things you should know in advance, like the fact that she could have some mobility issues that require slight modifications (such as easy-to-enter litterboxes and ramps), she might require a little extra help or encouragement when it comes to eating, drinking and grooming, and depending on her health and your vet’s recommendation, she may need to see the vet at least twice a year.

A cat is considered mature when she reaches 1 year of age, but this doesn’t mean that the cat stops growing. By the age of 9-12 months, kittens have reached a length and weight close to their full-grown size. After that, most cats continue to grow at a much slower rate until they are around 18 months old. The time it takes for your cat to become a fully-grown adult also depends on her breed. Some large breeds such as Maine Coon may take up to 2-4 years to fully grow.

Tips on Adopting an Older Cat

While it can be tempting to fall in love with the cute little kittens, they grow up very quickly into older cats. Starting with an older cat whose temperament you already get along with can set you both up for a long life of happiness together. Plus, let’s be honest, older cats are super adorable too! Here are some tips for adopting a senior cat.

Choosing a Cat at Shelter

Shelters are a great place to find older cats because you get to talk to volunteers that spend time with each of these cats every day and they can give you a good sense of their tempermant. You can talk to them and tell them about your lifestyle and what you’re looking for and they can help you narrow it down to cats that meet your family’s personality.

Bringing Home a Shelter Cat


Start by shopping for basic pet supplies and specialized senior pet supplies. Then, prepare a small room with a little food, drink, a litter tray, some toys and a warm bed which is enclosed on three sides (you can use a cardboard box and line it with old clothes or a blanket).

Additionally, shelters often have a room that they can let the cat out and interact with you. This will give you a good indication if it is a match made in heaven. At this session it is important to have all members of the family with you, this is particularly important if you have children, because it is important that your new cat gets along with all family members to avoid needing to return her to the shelter.

One way to ease your new older cat’s transition into your home is to have the necessary items on hand, including litter and a litter box, grooming supplies, fresh drinking water and the right cat food for her stage in life. And don’t forget the toys! While not as feisty as kittens, older cats love to play and benefit greatly from the activity. Good toys include wands and a few small stuffed animals she can bat around. This is also good exercise for her to help keep her trim and at a healthy weight.

Adoption Day!

Bring a soft sided cat carrier to the shelter with a piece of fabric on top to provide a sense of security and safety to your new pet. Even though your new furry companion is happy to finally have a loving home, she will be stressed out due to the change of environment and confusion about what’s happening. Old cats require gentle handling, so don’t make any jerky or rocking movements to the basket.

First Day With New Older Cat

Once you arrive home, gently open the basket and leave your cat on her own in the small room you prepared in step 2. Leave her on her own for several hours to give her space to adjust to the new environment and get used to the new and strange smells and noises.

Hand Feeding

Feeding your cat is one of the best bonding exercises you can do. Through hand-feeding a senior feline, you can build trust. He will associate you with security. You can also create a special signal that will let her know that food is coming such as tapping her plate, whistling, calling her name or opening a specific cupboard.

Clean Her Litter Tray Regularly

Make sure your cat knows where her litter tray is and that it is roomy enough for her to comfortably use with plenty of litter. Remove clumps several times a day and pay attention to whether she likes the specific kind of litter you use.

Enough Time To New Introductions

If you have small children in the house or other pets, don’t be too quick to introduce her to them. Give your senior cat time to adjust to her new environment first, and then set aside a time when no one is in a rush to introduce her to other family members. An older cat might be set in his ways and need extra time to adjust.

If you own a dog, it might be a good idea to put either the dog or the cat in a cage during the first introduction. That way she will not feel threatened by the dog who could get overly excited to meet her.

senior cat and dog

Register Your Older Senior Cat

Unless the shelter warns you otherwise, you can assume that your cat is in good health. However, it is still very important to have a vet who knows your cat that you can talk to whenever you have questions or go to in case of an emergency.

older cat and vet

Although she’ll probably stake out your bed as her favorite sleeping spot, your new cat buddy will appreciate having choices. Cats like to seek out warm places to rest. Make sure your older cat’s favorite soft bed or resting place is not in a drafty area of your home. Too much heat, though, can potentially burn a cat who can’t move quickly, so be sure to think warm, not hot. A pile of blankets in the corner of a couch is perfect, as is a soft pet bed under an end table, and always choose a spot that’s a good distance from heat sources such as fireplaces, furnaces or wood stove.

Adjusting to a New Home

As with any new roommate, your new cat will have to adjust to your home, and she may be shy at first as she gets used to all the new sights and smells. Depending on her previous living situation, it may take a while to win her trust, so be sure not to rush this important bonding period. All cats are different, so there is no exact timeline for her to acclimate completely to her new home, but she’ll be at ease before you know it. Adopting an older cat is beneficial for you and her: she gains a loving forever home, and you gain a loving forever friend.

Potential cons of adopting an older cat

There are of course a number of problems that you could encounter after adopting an older cat. However, with a little bit of love and patience they can easily be overcome!

Older Cats Have Lower Energy Levels

For natural reasons senior cats are not as energetic as kittens and young cats. If you’re looking for a furry companion to play with or have children who are very energetic, you may find a senior cat unexciting. Instead of running around and chasing imaginary mice, old cats prefer to sleep a lot, thoughtfully look through the windows and relax.

You Will Have Less Time With Your Feline

A senior cat is an old animal, and may have health conditions which manifest themselves at an older age. It’s sad to say, but instead of 15-25 years you will only have 5-10 years with your cat depending on her age when you adopt. Spend a lot of quality time with her and enjoy every moment.

You would be surprised to learn that adopting an old cat can be a fulfilling experience! Below is a list of reasons for why you should adopt a senior cat.

Mature Cats Are Calm, Wise and Experienced

Kittens are sweet and adorable, but they’ve got boundless energy in their tiny frames. They won’t leave you alone when it’s time for bed, have to be trained, and devour things left on countertops. Older cats have already lived in homes with other humans. They know how to use their litterboxes and are considerably calmer than kittens. They can keep you company, or quietly enjoy being on their own if you’re away from home.


It sounds awful to put it this way, but adopting an older cat is significantly cheaper than adopting a kitten! Many senior cats have already been spayed/neutered, dewormed, immunized and declawed (note: I advise against any declawing of future pets, but that’s for another time.) Plus, many shelters offer free adoptions for old cats! Use the ASPCA website to search for adoptable cats in your area.

You Know What You’re Getting

When you’re adopting a kitten, you really don’t know what they will be like as an older cat. They might turn out to be a lovely, fluffy pile of sweetness, or they might attack you in your sleep. Shelters will know everything about an older cat such as her behavior, whether she gets along with other cats, pets and children, their health problems, and most importantly how she reacts to changes in the environment.

Mature Cats Are Great For Households With Children

No matter how much you tell your child about proper behavior and handling of pets, they won’t be able to be gentle with a cat because they haven’t grown into their fine motor skills yet. Older cats can handle a little more “rough handling” than kittens, who might react with scratching or biting – and those little claws and teeth hurt! A mature cat is more likely to put up with being yanked by her tail than a kitten and still love your child.

Older Cats Are Perfect Companions For Senior Citizens

Older cats are a perfect addition to a venerable person’s home because they’re calmer, more relaxed and far less destructive than kittens. Kittens want to play all the time, and that can be taxing for someone who has limited mobility.

Mature Cats Get Along With Other Pets

If you’re looking to add a cat to a house that already has mature cats, an older cat will have an easier time integrating into the established dynamic. Adding a kitten into the mix will stress your older cats out, because if you’re not playing with the kitten, the kitten is playing with your cats. Mature cats enjoy their routines and independence and upending the balance in the home with an energetic kitten will be extremely stressful.

Let’s face it, older cats are more chill! They can let stuff go and accept their environment.

A Mature Cat Provides Unconditional Love

Studies have shown that after being adopted older cats show gratitude and love in unbridled ways. They are indefinitely grateful that you have given them a warm home, whereas kittens can take your home and care for granted.

Older cats have immense love and willingness to give back, are more responsible than their younger counterparts, and fit in with other animals and people extremely well. Adopting a senior cat will enrich your life with the company of a devoted pet who will never forget your kindness. There isn’t really a reason why you shouldn’t consider adopting a mature cat!

Kritter Kommunity Contributor

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