Adopting Senior Animals: Everything You Need to Know

Reviewed By Tom •  Updated: 12/08/20 •  4 min read
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There are few things you can do in life that are quite as rewarding as adopting a pet. But while your dreams might be of fun-loving puppies and cute, fluffy kittens, the reality is that an older animal can be just as rewarding, if not more so!

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Adopting a senior pet can provide you with so much satisfaction, as the older pet will look at you as their savior and lavish you with all the love and affection they’ve been storing up throughout their lives. Many older animals suffer in shelters, becoming depressed and frequently overlooked in favor of “cuter,” younger pets.

This trend of only rescuing younger animals can be incredibly problematic. If households aren’t accustomed to a puppy or kitten’s energy, or grow bored of them as they get older, many young adoptions are eventually returned to shelters. On the other hand, older pets already know who they are; they have an evident personality that’s unlikely to change much. They’re also usually a lot more calm and well trained: an older dog wouldn’t dream of toileting indoors or chewing on your favorite slippers; they’ve already grown out of this!

If you’re thinking about literally saving a life by bringing home an older pet who will dedicate however much time they have left to adore you and your family, then here are some of the top things you’ll need to know:

Energy Levels

Just like humans, as animals age, you might notice their energy levels reduce. This is perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to spend hours tiring out an energetic puppy, as a senior pup will be perfectly content to curl up with you on the sofa.

That’s not to say older pets don’t need exercise, you should still be sure to take your senior pup for plenty of walks, but you can take it much easier than you would need to with a younger animal!

Of course, the breed of the animal will also contribute to energy levels. Some stay “puppies” for life (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; a bundle of beans can be great for improving everyone’s mental health)! Do your research and adopt from a reputable agency to ensure you’re getting the perfect companion.


Older animals tend to come pre-trained. Depending on the circumstances that led to their stint in the animal shelter, they’re likely to already know at least basic commands such as “sit” and “stay,” and will know that your home is not a toilet and your shoes aren’t chew toys!

Contrary to popular belief, teaching an old dog new tricks is also surprisingly easy! They’re incredibly eager to please you, their savior, and will be happy to learn some new tricks (and rules). Remember to have patience with your adopted senior pet as they adjust to your routines and expectations, but if you give them time and attention, they’re sure to quickly pick it up.


One of the key benefits of adopting a senior animal is that what you see is (mostly) what you’ll get. Like us, older animals have gone through a wide range of experiences resulting in their personality being pretty fixed… No surprises here!

This also makes it easier when you’re looking for a particular type of pet… Do you want a cat who will curl up with you every evening, or would you prefer a more independent cat? With a senior pet, you’ll have an excellent chance to find the perfect fit.

If you’re looking for an older lap-dog to cuddle with, you might want to consider a dog ramp (like this one: to help you pup climb onto the couch for cuddle-time without straining their joints or muscles.


A common reason senior pets are surrendered to shelters (or not adopted as much as younger animals) is health expenses. Like humans, as animals age, they are more at risk of various health conditions, and vet bills can add up. It’s recommended to take an aging pet to the vet at least once (ideally twice) a year for check-ups, which can be costly.

That said, vet bills aren’t always as expensive as you might think! There are actually quite a lot of organizations set up in the United States to aid families with expensive vet bills, and the shelter might also be able to help you out if you’re giving a loving home to an older dog.

What’s more, many veterinaries offer discounts for rescued pets, so it’s a good idea to speak with your local vet before adopting to see whether discounts are available.

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!

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