There’s no mistaking it, baby pets are adorable and many grow up to become magnificent companions. Unfortunately pet owners often forget the trouble involved with raising a pet from infancy, and overlook the countless mature dogs awaiting adoption from shelters and rescue organizations.
“Consider adopting an older pet if you want to skip the house-training and want an animal that may already be obedience trained,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science (CVM). “Another benefit with older pets is that their personality is set when you meet them, and any health issues or special care needs may already be evident.”
Within the first week of adopting an older pet, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to identify any health concerns and to update vaccinations, heartworm prevention and parasite prevention.
“When selecting a pet to bring home make sure their behavior and activity level will fit into your lifestyle, which is much easier to determine when you meet an older pet,” said Stickney. “For example, a pet that is calm and relaxed for a smaller house versus super-active pets that need room to move around and a large yard. You should also have it meet all of the family to make sure the pet will get along with the children, males, and females living in your home.”
It is also important to ask the shelter or rescue organization about any known health or behavior issues, or if the pet has been around other pets before or not.
Preparing your home for an older pet is not that much different than a younger one, with a few exceptions that many find easier. “When bringing home any pet, it is important to have things such as the appropriate food, bedding, bowls, and the appropriate toys like chew objects for dogs or a scratching tree for cats,” said Stickney. “It is also essential to have a carpet cleaner around for a few accidents until the pet understands your house’s routine, and to make sure your yard is fenced with no breaks where the pet could escape and get lost. If your pet has arthritis and has trouble moving and jumping, you may need a ramp to help it maneuver steps.”
Older pets can also be easier to train because they do not get distracted as easily as puppies. However, if they have already learned certain commands you will need to stick with the same command words and gestures instead of trying to use new commands for the same trick.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.