The idea of a puppy might melt your heart, but when it comes to bringing a new pet into your home, sometimes an older pet makes more sense.
Potty training a new puppy or kitten can involve significant time and energy—night and day. And unless you’re willing to commit to doing it right, you’ll pay the consequences with plenty of clean up. So if you work full-time or are too busy shepherding kids from activity to activity to commit to being home, choosing a dog or cat who understands where to go is a huge asset.
“Just like a toddler, young dogs explore their environment by putting objects into their mouth,” explains Dr. Michael Malitz, a vet from Countryside Animal Clinic in Northbrook. Not only can this reek havoc on your home, if the dog ingests something that causes an obstruction, you can incur significant medial expenses. Dogs older than three years are less likely to chew on or ingest inappropriate objects.
A Ready, Loyal Companion
Despite the perception that most animal shelter pets were abandoned or abused, there are plenty of other reasons why a dog or cat ends up at a shelter. Many times the original owners run into financial challenges or lifestyle changes and can no longer care for a pet. In other cases, a pet may have run away from a caring family and been picked up by animal control. No matter the circumstance, most pets that end up in a shelter are only too happy to be welcomed into a new home.
“We adopted Maggie, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, from Orphans of the Storm,” says local resident Ron Reed. “We had just lost our black lab and were looking for another playmate for our Golden Retriever. Her previous family had financial difficulties and had to give her up. From the moment we met, it was love at first sight. It’s as if she knew she has a second chance.”
A puppy or kitten comes with an array of veterinary expenses: shots and wellness visits, spay/neuter surgeries and even the occasional emergency visits. Older pets usually only require routine care. Dr. Malitz warns, however, you should be financially prepared for some medical issues as your pet ages.
Finding Your Pet
The easiest place to find an older cat or dog is an animal shelter or animal rescue, but make sure it’s a reputable one (you can search for local organizations on petfinder.com). Quality shelters like Orphans of the Storm and PAWS will do a general health screening and temperament testing, and many will spay or neuter.
Your home situation will determine the type of temperament you need. “An adult without children would be better suited for a more high strung dog,” says Dr. Malitz. “While there are general guidelines, every pet and home situation is unique. That’s why temperament testing and a trial period is critical when bringing an older dog into any home.”
Older pets are also available through breeders and even service dog organization such as The Seeing Eye.