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Old Dogs (and Cats), Still Great Tricks

Learn the joys of adopting and loving mature pets

  • HSUS PR director, Heather Sullivan, with her 17-year-old dog, Pepper. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

  • Even older dogs love to play. Just ask 17-year-old Pepper. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Maybe it's the wisdom of years. Perhaps it's the calm they bring, having been around the dog park a few times. Whatever it is, older pets can be awesome pets.

Don't get us wrong—puppies, kittens, and other young animals are adorable. We're just saying they're not always where it's at for everyone.

Just like their human counterparts, these baby pets require an extensive commitment of time and energy from their guardians.

Busy schedules and work commitments prevent many Americans from being able to provide the kind of round-the-clock care that younger animals require. Mature dogs will have probably gone through some basic obedience training, and adult cats are more likely to be litter box trained. Of course they still require pet parents to be responsible and devoted (all animals require a lifelong commitment), but they can be less demanding in the traditional ways.

Older pets form deep bonds, too

It's something that shelter workers hear over and over again from people who want to adopt a puppy or kitten: "I want a pet who will bond with my family" or "I want a pet who can grow up with my kids." The truth is that forming a strong connection with a pet has little to with the animal's age at the time of adoption.

Find your new best friend today! Search for adoptable pets at The Shelter Pet Project »

Life can be easier with a mature pet

In addition, adult animals are often a more practical pet for families with children. Bringing together young animals and kids can be problematic, as puppies and kittens sometimes exhibit playful nipping and clawing, which can injure or frighten children. Kids can inadvertently be too rough with young animals. Adopting a mature pet who interacts well with children can be the best option.

There's more to choosing a pet than cuteness

While adorable kittens or pint-sized pooches have the power to seduce just about any animal-lover, it's important to remember that baby animals quickly become adults. Before giving in to the pull of a young animal, adopters need to remember that every animal up for adoption used to be a baby—and that adult animals can be every bit as sweet, cute, and playful as their younger counterparts.

With grown-up pets, you know what you're getting

Anyone who's ever observed an infant and wondered what he would look like as an adult knows that, without meeting his parents, it would be hard to guess. In the same way, it's hard to determine what kind of characteristics a puppy or kitten will have until the animal is an adult. In contrast, it's much easier for potential adopters to get a sense of an mature animal's qualities—including size, temperament, and personality—and to make a more informed decision based on their expectations.

You'll feel good giving an older pet a second chance

Helping a homeless animal will always be a natural high for adopters. But those who choose to adopt an grown-up pet can take extra comfort in knowing that they're giving a home to an animal who may otherwise be overlooked. As they age, dogs and cats tend to have an increasingly hard time finding an adoptive family. For many adopters, giving an older animal a home is an act of compassion.

More and more animal lovers are finding out that their perfect pet isn't a puppy or kitten but an adult dog or cat. In the process, they're learning just how easy it is to teach an older pet new tricks—and they're enjoying showing their best friend how to love again.

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