Sharing the Autumn Years - Older Cats

Older person with older catWhat better way to spend your twilight years than with an elderly cat for company?

Jill Eckersley discovers that, with a little reassurance and some helpful assistance from Cats Protection, a golden oldie can be the perfect companion and, in fact, just wha
t the doctor ordered!

Cats, like people, are living longer these days. Many cats don't show any signs of aging until they are well into their teens,and 'feline' centenarians' of 20-plus are not that unusual!

In an ideal world, pensioner cats would all live out their lives in loving homes. Sadly, this isn't' always possible and many find their way into CP care. Some are strays, others come in for a variety of reasons ranging from marriage break-ups to house moves. As the majority of potential are looking for kittens, older cats often have a long and frustrating wait for the loving new home they need

Yet, for some owners, especially elderly people, an older cat could be the best choice of companion. They are steadier, more sensible and less demanding than kittens in lots of ways, with fully formed personalities so that you know what you're getting. Most ask little more than a bowl of food, a warm lap, and a comfortable bed in which to snooze

Some of CP older cats are perfect for 'first-time' cat owners. They're calm and easy-going, they've been there and done that, and they fit in well. So it's not only older people who would benefit from the companionship of a Golden Oldie. They are a better choice for busy families who don’t want the hassle of supervising a young cat for long hours. If you are looking for a quiet life then a mature cat should be at the top of your list

Adult cats sleep more, play less, break fewer lamps, and don't try to bite your toes through the blankets in the middle of the night. With an adult cat, you will sleep better, relax more, make fewer claims on your homeowner's policy, and have a bit more energy than chasing around after kittens. Older cats have got over the excitement of youth and are much happier to sit and enjoy your company and a good fuss

Linda Hutchinson is coordinator of CP's Ely branch, which has had considerable success in rehoming older cats to older people. "Rehoming golden oldies can be a problem". she admits, "but it doesn't have to be. We positively encourage older people to take older cats as they have lots of advantages. An older cat won't get under your feet,will already be litter-trained and less inclined to worry his owner by staying out all night!"

Matchmakers

Older lady with cat
Many CP branches make a point of 'matching up' older residents with older people, to the benefit of both parties. Having a companion cat prevents isolation, reduces stress, and can give an older person a reason to get up in the morning, especially if they live alone. having a quiet home with a devoted owner with plenty of time and attention to give is exactly what an older cat needs

"We are 'people' people as well as cat people," she says. "We will discuss any worries about adoption before we rehome the cat.  If I'm rehoming a cat to an older person I will make a point of talking to the extended family and any carers as well. I homed a 12 year old puss to a lady in her 80's whose district nurse buys the cat food for her, and knows she can call me if there's a problem. I also homed an elderly blind cat to a retired gentleman with a promise that we would take the cat back if things didn't work out - but they did!

Help is at hand

Older man with older cat
New owners may be afraid that an older cat won't bond with them, or if they have just lost a much-loved companion, they may be unable to face the idea of being bereaved again. Tactful support and reassurance can help her. CP rehomers go out of their way to ensure that 'bonding' does happen by matching the right cat to the right owner. This is often easier  in the case of an older cat whose habits and personality are already known. No animal comes with a guarantee but adopting a ten year old could mean you have ten happy years together
 
The message from Cats Protection is that if you are an older person thinking of adopting a cat, don't be afraid to discuss any worries with branch officers
 
"Rehoming and elderly cat to an elderly person is not only rewarding but it proves that Cats Protection is here to help both cats and people," says Graham Hoult of the Wharfe Valley branch. "We provide support, and spend time assessing every phone call we get and finding a solution to any difficulty."

One of Wharfe Valley's success stories is 80 year old Dorothy Howe from Yorkshire who has adopted several golden oldies from the branch. Her current companion is Kipling; a long haired ginger gentleman, who came to her a year ago, furless, toothless and aged about 17. "He needs me and I need him"," says Dorothy. "I've always loved cats but decided I couldn't cope with kittens climbing up the curtains at my age. My CP oldies have always settled in beautifully. Of course, it's sad when you lose them but you have the consolation of knowing you gave them a wonderful retirement

Kipling looked like a feather duster when he moved in. He was found straying with his rear end matted and in a dreadful state but he's a beautiful old boy now, and such a soothing companion. if I have any worries with anything I k now that I can call on CP to help me out. I would recommend an oldie to anybody."

Hoping for change

It's particularly sad if a cat lover has to give up their animal when they move into residential care. now that the benefits of companion animals are better known, some retirement, care and nursing homes are beginning to understand how a friendly feline can turn a 'Home' into a real home

"When  a new care home opened in our area, the owners took two cats from us, and it has worked out really well," says Linda Hutchinson coordinator of Ely branch. "Another is hoping to change it's' no-pets' policy, and a third is thinking of allowing residents with ground-floor rooms to have them. One of our members takes her PAT cat into local old peoples' homes and Sue Ryder homes

Of course, some accommodation for older people may be unsuitable for cats if it''s on the main road, or if the residents are not animal lovers, but Cats Protection is working hard to convince housing authorities that cats can, and do, enrich the quality of life for elderly residents

For further information on the benefits of rehoming an older cat see In Praise of Older Cats.

Also please visit our Adoption Gallery to see the cats that are awaiting new loving homes