When I did a lot of tutoring of younger students I was always on the lookout for entertaining reading for them. One main criterion was that I also would find them enjoyable. Thus I found the Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant. In the introductory volume, elderly Mr. Putter decides that a cat will keep him from feeling lonely. However, only kittens are available at the pet store (“ `Oh, no one wants cats, sir,’ said the pet store lady. `They are not cute. They are not peppy.’ Mr. Putter himself has not been cute and peppy for a very long time”).
At the animal shelter, however, he finds Tabby, a decidedly old yellow-and-white cat who needs a friend, too. In the second installment, Mr. Putter and Tabby offer to take care of a neighbor’s bulldog, Zeke, only to discover that Zeke isn’t the darling “little lollypup” his owner believes him to be. The series continues to follow these four characters in wonderful stories, containing subtly introduced life lessons and gentle humor.
The lesson in the first story is very appropriate in November. It is Adopt a Senior Pet Month. In fact, as the pet store lady told Mr. Putter, people want kittens. Even a one or two year old cat might wait and wait for an adopter. The pet store lady was also right about something else, kittens are “peppy”. They are in fact babies and require all the demanding attention of human babies but are far more active and can be real wrecking crews. So can puppies, who also have to be potty trained. Even in a family situation, an older cat even if not actually a senior, might be a better choice, especially for a busy mom.
So what makes a pet a senior? Small dogs, such as toy poodles, terriers or Chihuahuas aren’t considered senior until much later than a larger breed, and the giant breeds are considered senior at 5 or 6. Most vets, though, consider a dog of 7 or 8 years and older to be a senior.There is a lot less variation in cats than in dog breeds and cats are usually considered middle aged at seven and senior at around ten. On the other hand larger birds, such as cockatoos, macaws and parrots can live 40 to 60 years so aren’t senior untl much later in life.
Shelters and rescues are full of wonderful animals with endearing personalities and so much love and companionship to offer. I know from experience they are completely aware they have been saved from confined and lonely final years, or even worse, an early death, when someone takes them home . They are brimming with gratitude. Especially with cats, loosing their “territory” and sense of safety can be very traumatic. With dogs, it’s just as traumatic to loose their “pack”. They might need a little extra care, like brushing those hard to reach places to help with grooming, or a special diet, but younger animals can develop problems too.
A quieter, older pet can be perfect if you are limited by chronic pain or mobility issues. A 2012 study in Pain Magazine found that therapy dogs provided “significant reduction in pain and emotional distress for chronic pain patients.” And the frequency of cat purring falls between 25 and 140 Hz. The same frequency has been shown to aid in the healing of broken bones, joint and tendon repair, and wound healing. Purring releases endorphins in cats, and it can do the same thing in humans, too. Lowered stress hormones are helpful for lowering blood pressure, and helping people cope with illness, too. In addition to pain relief, senior pets can bring feelings of joy and happiness, because their love is so evident.
So if you are in the market to adopt, even if you are not a senior yourself, and certainly if you are, please don’t overlook those older pets,