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Francesca Watson explains why she believes older is better when it comes to cat ownership

I am well on my way to being a serial mature moggy adopter. I am currently on my third senior kitizen, Minnow Pigeon (12), who follows on from Tamsin (18) and Fintan Padraig (15). I’ve not known any younger.

I had worked at Cats Protection for 12 long years before I seriously thought about getting a cat. The main reason for not having a cat was that my sister was very allergic, but when I broached the subject with her, she said: “What’s taken you so long?! I can take antihistamine!” The barriers were gone, I should have spoken up earlier.

close up of brown tabby cat's faceFran's first mature moggy, Tamsin

I decided on an older cat for a few reasons. I knew that they are usually calmer, more interested in being around and less likely to roam. I’ve been well trained by my veterinary and behaviourist colleagues at work, so I was confident I could give a cat a lovely home for their last years.

And lastly and seemingly heartless, being coldly practical I thought ‘If cat owning isn’t for me, then at least it will be a small time commitment’. So practical but completely unrealistic, within a few weeks of adoption I wanted to have my cat for decades!

To have had three cats in just four years (one at a time) may seem a lot, but this is a salient point for anyone wanting to adopt an older cat – you may not get long with them…but it’s oh so worth it.

My first mature moggy

Tamsin was at the National Cat Adoption Centre where a group of us had gone to see a lovely one-year-old tabby called Lily who was being adopted by a colleague. As we all gazed and cooed at Lily I saw a cat in the pen to her right. Another lovely tabby but this one was 17 years old. Tamsin just calmly sat there looking back at me, paws tucked in, head a little bowed.

brown tabby cat with yellow eyesTamsin in her new home

With my colleagues’ gentle encouragement, next thing I knew I was making enquiries and meeting her. She was sweet, curious, friendly and I was smitten. She’d been in the centre for several weeks with no interest, typical of so many mature mogs, which broke my heart. One week later I took Tamsin home.

She was an instant hit with friends, family and neighbours. She even charmed the plumber who’d been kneeling on the floor checking a gas fire. She sat next to him with great interest, then casually licked his arm. No one could believe she was 17, not even my vet. Her energy was years younger.

I was lucky enough to have Tamsin throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. Being obliged to work from home was a gift as it meant I got to spend much more time with her. She was gently persuasive and rather than just throw myself on the sofa at lunch she would come and fetch me to go outside into the garden with her. We had a wonderful summer together sitting outside, both of us in the shade, she taught me to relax more, enjoy the moments and lowered any anxiety. And she was so photogenic that she has graced the pages of The Cat magazine, especially in our garden articles!

Expectations of an older cat

I knew I’d be taking on possible health challenges and this has been proved by all three of my mature mogs. But I learn more with each issue, I observe more, and the experience helps me. There will be more vet visits and as such there is a cost, but at the same time I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my insurance didn’t increase just because I had an older cat (not all insurance policies are the same), which relieved my concerns on the financial front.

I was glad to have a gentle companionship, both of us muddling along at a slow pace, enjoying our time together. Not for me the tales of cats climbing up curtains and knocking ornaments off shelves. I have been lucky that my cats haven’t been big chasers of wildlife. Tamsin did try once and got half-way up a small tree when common sense prevailed and she decided to age gracefully from then on.

My cats haven’t engaged in boisterous play, preferring to sleep almost 20 hours a day. Tamsin would surprise me with her energy and love of play for such an old lady, whereas Minnow just looks bemused as I wave the fishing rod toy about. I’ve been assured that even just a few minutes of them being interested is good, and not to have expectations of gymnastic displays shown by their younger counterparts.

brown tabby cat sat inside wooden cat houseTamsin watching over the garden

There are worries; age-related illnesses, slowing up, vet visits... You also wish that you’d known them as a young kitten, or at least knew what they’d looked like. With all three of my mature mogs, there has not been much information about their previous lives, a photo of them as a kitten would have been amazing! I wish I knew more so I could adapt more to them and their needs, but thankfully the team at the adoption centre were great at assessing them all and gave good advice prior to adoption.

An extended warranty

When you adopt a cat from Cats Protection owners are now given six months of behaviour advice from our experts. I certainly needed that for Tamsin. I had years of theoretical experience from all the advice the charity gives but I was an absolute novice in real terms. I had so many questions and worries that I’d be asking the team anything and everything, and my poor colleagues too! It was around that six-month mark that I began to relax and not panic at every move or look she gave me. Tamsin was extremely patient with me, that’s for sure. With Minnow (my current mature mog) I have learnt to be less stressed, and I am the patient one. Her quirks have seen me book time in with our Behaviour team to get their advice on how I can get her to play more, not hide from strangers. This is an amazing service and one I urge new adopters to avail themselves of. You add this to the microchipping, neutering, flea and worm treatment… all of which comes as part of a Cats Protection cat, and you are really getting value for your adoption fee.

Find help and advice on cat health and behaviour.

The inevitable goodbye

Saying goodbye to Tamsin and Fintan was absolutely awful, and it’s something I am dreading when it comes to Minnow Pigeon’s time. I hate grief, I hate crying, I hate the absolute gaping hole left, the resounding silence in the house. I miss the daily routines, the individual quirks, the good times, the bad times. But I try to focus on how they made my life better, the lovely memories they created and just how lucky I was to have them, even though it was for such a short time. When Tamsin was fading, I had already made plans to give all her things away to other cat owners – to rid the house of any reminders of her presence. But within a week I was changing my mind. Tamsin had had her time and the mature mog retirement home could reopen for another cat, and then another after that.

ginger tabby catMature moggy #2, Fintan Padraig

Tamsin died in February, I’d had her just 18 months, but what a life-changing time. At the end of March I welcomed Fintan home. He was a 15-year-old ginger gentleman, and so lovely. He was a very anxious cat and had not enjoyed life in a cat pen. I had such high hopes of our friendship. He’d just started coming out from under the bed for strokes and attention, wandering around the house, when he had a sudden episode, his heart was racing, his blood pressure sky high, and he had an abnormal heart murmur. I had to have him put to sleep. He’d had a very anxious life, been through so much with an operation just a couple of months previously, and I think it all proved too much for him. I’d had him for just four weeks, but his loss still hurt, and hurts still. I mourn for the friendship that could have been.

My colleagues were devastated for me, and when I mooted getting another cat they gently suggested I get a much younger one, to give me more quality time with them. I did consider this but I knew that it would be the mature cats that would be left with little or no interest. This time I waited two months before adopting, and they were long months! You get used to the sound of paws around the house.

Find advice and support on grief and loss.

Mature moggy number three

black-and-white cat lying on yellow duvet coverFran's current senior 'kitizen', Minnow Pigeon

Minnow Pigeon was 10 (I did go a bit younger!) when I got her and she is now 12, a younger golden oldie. I met her via video call during the pandemic. She had me when she rolled onto her back and started waving her paws at me. I think she has older physiology at age 12 than Tamsin had at 17. You just can’t predict. She has slight dementia, a bit of arthritis, she’s nervous of everything, she doesn’t always know how to be a cat, and she flinches and runs at every noise or movement. No one but me has seen her because she hides as soon as she hears someone else in the house. Her progress has been glacial in comparison to Tamsin and Fintan. But she is who she is. I have lowered my expectations and am grateful for the slow progress. We may go two steps forward, five steps back, but she is worth it, and the moments of trust, the times where she is clearly enjoying life, make me realise she is happy with her adoption.

Just do it!

If you’re thinking of getting a mature moggy, then do it! There could well be more vet visits, and all that those entail, but they are worth it. Definitely consider pet insurance and whether your vet has a Pet Club that covers all the usual treatments throughout the year.

black-and-white cat curled upMinnow Pigeon enjoying a snooze

Be prepared to give more than you receive. Cats of this age are definitely set in their ways. There is heartache and worry, but that glow you get from knowing that you’ve given them a wonderful, secure, loving home for their last years is worth it all. Whether adopting a young, middling or older cat I would definitely ensure that you are a right fit – not just that they’re the right cat for you and your situation but more importantly that you’re the right fit for them.

I am not the same person I was, and neither is my sister who is now a massive cat fan, despite her sneezing. If Minnow goes before me, then I know it won’t be long before I’m checking out the senior cats on the Cats Protection website. I look forward getting to know their unique character and quirks. I am a serial mature moggy adopter and proud of it.

Find more information about adopting a mature moggy. 

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