Volunteering as an adoption counselor at a local animal shelter gives me the opportunity to match up the perfect pet with the perfect person. I meet countless people looking for a feline friend, and many are senior citizens. Many seniors have reached a time in their lives when the day-to-day care of an active canine is too much to physically manage. In fact, quite a few seniors who visit our shelter have been lifelong dog owners but, because their mobility is becoming limited as they enter their golden years, they are looking for their first cat.

Companion animals have been cited as beneficial for the elderly because their presence relieves stress (thus lowering blood pressure) and provides other health benefits. They also help fight a major crisis among today’s seniors: loneliness! Finding the perfect match can enrich a homeless feline and brighten a senior citizen’s outlook on the precious gift of life.

Discovering that perfect match is simple, once you realize that several factors play a part in making the right choice — for both senior and pet. Whether it’s their first feline or another cat in a long line of many, these factors must be considered before a senior takes the plunge to adopt a cat. Living with a pet is a wonderful experience at any age, but for older people, care and maintenance should be a priority. Please consider the following kitty care requirements, and make sure all can be met:

  • All cats require some grooming, but longhaired cats need extra attention to prevent matting. Therefore, shorthaired cats tend to be the better choice, especially for seniors with arthritis in their hands.
  • Kitty needs to be fed regular, nutritious meals and must have fresh water at all times.
  • A litter box must be must be scooped daily and regularly cleaned and refilled with fresh litter.
  • Visits to kitty’s veterinarian are occasionally necessary for immunizations and routine health check-ups.

When picking a compatible cat for a senior, remember that kittens and young cats aren’t really an option because of their high energy levels. It’s much better to adopt an adult cat, who is more settled and may already be trained not to scratch the furniture. Shelters around the country are overflowing with needy adults whose only “crime” is that they’re not kittens. Who better to understand these cats than a human who is also growing older?

Purina Pets for People Program

Since 1984, the Purina Pets for People Program has donated millions of dollars to participating shelters — matching up thousands of senior shelter pets with new senior owners. To learn more about how this program provides the life-enriching benefits of pet ownership to older Americans, visit the Purina website.