Adopting Older Cats: Cat Adoption Tips for Adult Cats
My Adopted Prince Albert
Adopting an Older Cat Can Be Rewarding
While the majority of people wanting to adopt a cat will choose a kitten, there are unexpected joys to adopting an older—or even elderly—cat. I do love kittens . . . their curiosity, their playfulness, and their darn cuteness! A couple of years ago, though, I was put in the position to take in an old cat: a skinny, gray, half-blind, outdoor cat whose owner had died. Having fed Prince Albert for several months next door while his human mama was ill in the hospital, I had developed a bond with him. Still, I had no plans for him to end up with me, and I had no idea what his addition to my little furry family would bring to my life.
My dog, Gizmo, With Prince Albert
Challenges of Adopting an Older Cat
Bringing the old guy into my home had its challenges. When the Prince lived next door, my dog would bark and chase him across the yard back to his own yard if he ventured through the picket fence over into our territory. I worried about my dog’s acceptance of the old cat. Plus, I already had five cats and wasn't looking to adopt more. And would they get along? I had learned how to acclimate cats to each other over time, but I had never taken in a cat this old, whose estimated age was 17. I had heard from a family member that the old guy had incontinence problems and would pee in the house. That was something I would have to watch, too. Where would he sleep at night? Where would I leave him during the day with the other cats? These were questions I would have to answer once I committed to taking him in.
Tips for Taking in an Older Cat
If you are considering adopting an older cat, these tips will guide you through the process and prepare you for when your new friend comes home.
1. Consider the older cat’s health issues
When I agreed to take Prince Albert home, I asked a family member of his former owner what veterinarian he had been taken to. Soon, I took him there for a complete check-up and to learn his past history. I learned that his glazed over apparently blind eye was not a cataract, but was most likely from an injury. I also learned that his blood work was good, his organs were working well, and that he could live a much longer life. Oh, great, I thought, especially when I got the vet bill for $160. I’m stuck with this old, incontinent cat till death do us part. And I was just trying to do a favor.
A New, Pampered Life for Prince Albert
2. Give the older cat extra time to get used to the other cats
This goes both ways. The cats in the home also need time to get used to the idea of a new cat in the home. As a cat lover, I have been adopting cats for many years. Each time the newcomer comes in, I keep him or her in the bathroom with food, water, and litter for about a week or two, bringing the newbie out for a short time in the evenings for the other cats to see. During the day when I work, the cats get used to knowing that there is a newcomer on the other side of the door, as they sniff and swat their paws under the door. With the older cat, I gave it even more time, as it seemed there was more resistance from the other cats. And old Prince Albert isn’t as resilient as a kitten that keeps coming back for more. Protect your older cat from unwanted advances until he or she is ready, both day and night.
3. Explore the Older Cat's Litter Box Needs
Since I was told that Prince Albert had been known to pee in the house, I was careful to let him in from the screened porch too much. Out there, he could pee in the litter box, out in the dog/cat covered run, or even on the concrete. So, once he moved over to my house, during the warm months he spent a lot of his time out there, with infrequent or short indoor visits. With the onset of cold weather, I brought in the old guy to stay in the bathroom overnight. As I had caught him urinating on throw rugs inside (now I’ve pulled all the rugs up until he passes away!), I started to experiment with different types of litter areas for him. He immediately took to pee pads for dogs. As these are expensive, I also tried an “as seen on TV” potty patch for dogs, and he took to that, too! Now, over time, he has even found the traditional litter box, so he has several options. I guess you can teach an old cat new tricks!
4. Consider the Older Cat's Food Needs
Prince Albert can eat the dry food with the other cats, but when I treat them with canned cat food, I sneak him some extra. Many older cats may find chewing hard food more difficult, so keep that in mind. Also, with the sweet old man, I make sure that whether he’s out in the sunshine on the screened-in patio or secluded in the bathroom, that he has plenty of food and water at all times. I just don’t want the old guy to go hungry or want for anything. I think I’m falling for him.
Prince Albert and Me
Rewards of Adopting an Older Cat
I joke about taking on a cat Hospice patient, as I made him as comfortable as possible. I had doubts about taking in this guy, as I thought it would be more of a burden than a pleasure. I didn’t think he would hang on so long—over two years so far since he came to be a part of my household! Now, he comes in from the patio more often, laying by me on the couch or a nearby chair. One of the older cats has taken to him and will get fairly close to him. After all this time, the other cats are finally learning to accept him. They don’t cuddle up to him, but the hisses have lessened, as they are realizing that he is here to stay. Prince Albert has made the place his own; he comes into the kitchen with the dog, watching me as I cook, looking for crumbs. Surprisingly, once Prince Albert came home with me, my dog stopped pestering him. My little smart canine buddy realized, “Oh, he’s one of us now!” I've even caught them in the doghouse together when the weather is chilly!
Prince Albert has thrived in his new “Hospice setting.” He is totally an inside cat now and doesn’t seem to miss the harshness of the outdoors. This pampered old cat now has a softer, thicker gray coat, and seems to be thriving, as he now comes to the sliding glass door to be let in, then scampers into the house. He looks up at me with his sweet blind eye, and my heart melts. This gentle, grateful soul is about 19 years old now. I hope he’ll be with me well into his 20’s. Adopting an older cat is so rewarding. Giving new life to an elderly cat who needs you and begins to thrive not only helps that little creature, but it gives you new life, too, adding a sweetness you never dreamed possible.
Consider adopting an older cat! The rewards for both of you are well worth it.
Prince Albert's Death
As an update, since this post, my sweet soul Prince Albert passed on on June 25th, 2012. I am still so sad. I miss his sweet countenance, his trust, how he finally got comfortable and would claim his spot on the couch next to me. Prince Albert was old, which brought its challenges. He would only pee on certain things (yeah, a problem, sometimes), and the other cats had a hard time warming up to him. Still, I loved him. He was part of my home, and I feel grateful and fortunate that I had the honor of taking care of him in his last years.
The rewards of adopting an older or special needs cat are immeasurable.
The Joys of Adopting an Older Cat: Save a Life!
- Why Adopt An Adult Cat Instead of a Kitten?
Why it might be better to adopt an adult cat than a kitten in various circumstances.