Older calico cat sitting on couch

Tips for adopting senior cats

Walk into any animal shelter and you’re likely to find people who are eager to adopt a kitten. And why not—kittens are adorable, affectionate, and comical. But older cats, those over 7 years of age, are often passed up for adoption. The unfortunate consequence: Older cats are far more likely to be euthanized than are their younger counterparts.

Advantages of Adopting a Senior Cat

A major advantage in adopting a senior cat is that she likely already understands some basics rules about living with people and other pets—making ideal companions. Older felines can be more relaxed than their kitten juniors, and are less likely to display destructive behaviors. Some older cats are already experienced mousers, and will make short work of any unwanted guests living under the floorboards. Also, older cats are likely to be spayed and neutered and used to living indoors (e.g., using a litter pan).

Senior cats are often placed in shelters because their owner has died or has moved to a place that does not allow pets. This means that these older cats are likely socialized to life with people. They not only enjoy human companionship, they crave it. Here are some additional reasons to adopt a senior cat:

  • They are likely to be litter trained, which means fewer litter pan accidents.
  • They often have some training in house manners.
  • They lack the “kitten energy” that gets so many young cats into trouble.
  • They’re fully grown, so what you see it what you get.
  • They are more likely to have a calm disposition, making them excellent cuddle buddies.

Tips for Adopting a Senior Cat

As with senior dogs, a senior cat will require some time to become acclimated to her new surroundings. At first she may choose to hide and may shun food, but with patience, affection, and some smelly treats, she’ll likely come around quickly.

Your senior cat should have easy access to food, water, a litter pan, and a warm safe place to sleep. Some older cats are less mobile than their young counterparts, so you may want to use a low-sided or covered litter pan. 

Health Concerns with Senior Cats

Since older pets are more likely to experience deficits associated with aging—decreased mobility, joint stiffness, hearing or vision loss--you’ll want to get your new adoptee to the veterinarian for an initial assessment. This serves two purposes: It alerts you to any existing health conditions that may require attention either now or in the future; and it serves as a baseline to gauge any changes in behavior or condition over time. While a common concern of adopting a senior pet is the increased cost of veterinary care, be aware that you are saving the immunization and spay/neuter costs incurred when adopting a young animal.

Some are hesitant to adopt a senior cat because of the likelihood of expensive health problems in older animals. However, an older cat is less likely to experience an undisclosed congenital health issue than a kitten—and the routine health maintenance costs of caring for a senior cat can be greatly offset by purchasing affordable cat health insurance.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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