Should You Adopt an Older Cat?

Should you adopt an older cat?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Shelters are overflowing with older cats in need of a loving home.

There are many reasons to adopt an older cat, but this story is about just one special guy who will make you think twice if you have your heart set on a kitten. If you’ve been browsing local animal shelters looking for the right animal companion for you and tend to overlook an older cat fearing the possible reasons they were brought to the shelter at such an age in the first place, read on.

The Trouble with Tribble

I was visiting my friend, Kimm, over Thanksgiving and met her glorious cat named Tribble. If the name conjures the adorable fluffballs purring and chirping all over Kirk and crew on Star Trek, then you already have an idea why this cat is so unique.

Tribble has the cutest purr in the world. A sweet, sing-song trill that is both amusing and heartening, especially considering it emanates from an 18-pound male who wants nothing but love and treats. Watch the video below to hear his entrancing sound (forgive the background noises of the Thanksgiving party):

Tribble was 7 years old when Kimm and her husband adopted him last year (along with a sweet 9-month-old tortie named Turtle). She admits she was hoping to adopt younger cats, but says she didn’t really have a choice.

“They chose us, really,” Kimm told me, a familiar refrain uttered by many of us who have adopted those shelter cats who seemed to respond to our energy, meowing and pawing through their cages. Prior to that Tribble was twice-adopted from the shelter and returned. Kimm explains:

He was in the first home for three years before his owner died. Was returned to the shelter for a few months before being adopted by a family with four small children. They terrorized him for three or so years and he did not like that. He retaliated which did not please the mother. He was returned again. One of the provisos of us adopting him was that he was going into a calm home. Tribble was their favourite cat in the shelter. He chirps like a cricket and is super friendly. He was also the “test cat” when introducing new dogs into the shelter. If Tribble was cool with them they were then deemed cat-friendly.

Thankfully, Tribble got along well with his newly adopted sister, Turtle, after she was spayed and brought home a week later. Kimm followed standard procedure in introducing cats by letting them get acquainted through the bedroom door. She states bluntly of Tribble: “[h]e was a bit of a territorial asshole in the beginning but that was short lived. They are the best of friends now.”

Kim with Turtle

Kimm with Turtle

 An Older Cat Can Teach You New Things

There are a few things I took away from Kimm’s story:

  1. Tribble was always a great cat, just not a great cat for everyone
  2. Older cats can be just as social and bonded with you as the kittens you raise yourself
  3. Never underestimate what an older cat can bring to your life
  4. Children need to be taught how to properly treat and respect cats. They’re not dogs, people!

Tribble will turn 9 – that’s 52 in cat years – on December 25th, and Kimm couldn’t be happier with her decision to adopt him and Turtle last year following the passing of her beloved pitbull, Duncan, 3 months prior. A big supporter of adopting shelter cats, she says, “[t]here are so many awesome animals in shelters that would make wonderful companions. All of the cats come litter-trained and spayed/neutered and appreciate you freeing them from a crate.”

And now I want to hear from you! Have you adopted older cats/dogs? Share your story in the comments to help inspire others to consider adopting older animal companions.

19 thoughts on “Should You Adopt an Older Cat?

  1. Why senior cats are great.

    The story of Arashi and Valquirai Aka: Valki and Ari.Two Senior cats.

    In my life there have always been cats and dogs since I was small and none of them were ever purchased.They all came into my life by chance.
    My older cat a Calico has been with me for 20 years and was picked up as a kitten half frozen from under a car. She was approximately only two weeks old, and the other one a lovely male black cat has been with me now for 16 years, my neighbor found him in a rubbish bin in a plastic bag and was also only a few weeks old.
    And now I have my two Senior Cats Valqui and Ari. Four Furry bundles of love.

    In May and after one of my cats had died of a tumor some months earlier I still felt a big empty space and although I have two other cats I missed her very much and still do.But… I had plenty of room for another cat both in my house and in my heart Having rescued and kept all my cats since they were kittens I thought it was time to give an opportunity to a senior cat which are the last ones to get out of the shelter, that is if they ever do.

    I went to the shelter after I had seen the photo on their web page to bring her home. A small size tortoise shell only 2.500Kg, a very shy little lady more or less 8 years old called Arashi. I was told that she was so shy that I would have to be very patient with her as she refused to let anyone get near and would just hide.At the same time I was told that her only friend in the shelter was another cat that had also been there as long as she had, over two years and her only reason to come out of her hiding place. More or less the same weight as Arashi, a common European grey striped cat the had named Valquiria. Apparently they had both been rescued from a house from a woman who had died who had kept 25 cats and who suffered from Noah Syndrome with all that this implies and as a result they had not been cared for properly. So I was warned that the cat I had chosen would take a long time to adjust but that she would always be a shy cat. Not so! I was also told that her best friend Valquiria was a bit less shy but equally wary of human contact.Even less so! But of course that is now, after time and patience.
    In the end I decided that I could also care for her friend so I adopted both of them the same day.
    Valqui and Ari have turned out to be the sweetest companions anyone could have ever wished for for me and for my other two cats.
    As I knew Arashi would hide I carefully blocked most of the places she would be able to creep under and provided her with shelter from cardboard boxes and blankets which most cats love, with her food and water nearby and also her litter box at a distance to which she would creep out to use at night..It was just a question of time until she started coming out from her box- hiding places, not days but weeks and this is important because one has to be patient and give the cat time to adjust.At firstI would spend time sitting near by her hiding place just talking to her. Slowly she started to make herself more visible.Valquiria was friendlier from the first moment and soon started started to show up unexpectedly around the house.My flat has an interior patio conveniently closed for my cats and the first time they ventured out it was a clear summer night and they both just sat there gazing at the stars as if they had never seen them. They probably hadn´t, and it made me think how many other things they had missed.
    They both got on well with my other two cats from the first moment.Now Arashi even enjoys playing with a small ball of string and will now let me stroke her with my fingers.Valquiria who is a year younger has a lovely purr every time she comes near and is enjoying every moment of her new life too.After learning to play ball Arashi now comes to me with a very shy meow in the morning so that I go out to the patio to throw the ball for her. So who said senior cats are not fun?
    Although they are quite independent now from each other they still like to sleep in the same basket.
    Some senior cats are adopted and later returned to the shelter because they are shy or not playful at first,perhaps they will not let you pick them up or touch them or they will hide.Some people just don´t give them the necessary time to adjust.
    What about us? I don´t think anyone of us would like t be persistently hugged. We are neither in the mood all the time to have fun so why expect this from cats at any time?

    I know from experience and understand how tempting kittens or young cats can be for people wanting to own a cat.I always tell others (Please adopt don´t buy). Shelter cats have many advantages specially senior cats who have spent a long time there.
    Most people know that senior cats from shelters are sprayed neutered and vaccinated and litter trained and in my country as well as some other countries ( I live in Spain) they are also chipped and are given a passport.But there are also other advantages.
    As most shelters rely on food donations they are accustomed to all types of cat food and are not spoilt or choosy. It is up to us cat lovers to spoil them afterwards if we choose to do so.
    Most shelters close at least to the public at a certain time so these cats are well accustomed to a routine and know when it is bedtime specially senior cats who have been there a long time.So for anyone who likes routine they are the ideal companions.On arrival they will sleep the whole night at their usual timetable and will continue to do so unless we change it and they will not wander around making noises.
    Animals at shelters are also fed at a certain time so unless we modify their habits they will not wander around trying to get at our food or even stealing it as some younger cats do.

    We must take into account that not all shelter cats are in a shelter because they are “Problematic” In fact some people classify their cats as problematic when in reality a lot of people are just not prepared to have cats and should know before hand what having a cat implies.Some cats have just been unfortunate or fortunate enough depending on which way you look at it to end up in a shelter.Some because their previous owners have died but in most cases because their previous owners were not prepared or had never taken into account what having a cat whether it be a kitten or an older cat represents or implies, people who then carelessly just decide to get rid of them and put them out in the street to fend for themselves.

    People that are thinking about adopting a cat should consider that these senior cats were once kittens, that many were loved as kittens and that some were later discarded by their owners like an old toy.
    If you do choose to adopt a kitten please also take into account the attention that a kitten needs and what kittens do and can get up to apart from being cuddly and sweet so that they will never end up in a shelter and become Senior Cats there.
    Kittens are not toys. No animal is a toy! Senior cats are wonderful companions!

    Below is a link to page in which it explains what Noah Syndrome is as it is rare and some people may not have heard of it.
    I would like to attach a photo but it wont allow me to do so.Mayne I could send it some other way.

    1. Your story is so sweet. And you make many good points about cat “ownership.” I love my senior boys and feel good knowing I’m giving a loving home to a wonderful cat that is usually overlooked. Next time I go to the shelter I’m going to ask them to show me the cats who have been there the longest!

  2. In fact, Tribble looks like a purrrrfect CoatHook candidate, and I’d love to donate one to him with gratitude to Kimm for making a senior adoption. If it’s okay with her, please email ( her address, and I’ll get one right out to them. (I also think Turtle’s face is heartbreakingly adorable — and there’s so much love in that embrace, I’m in joyful tears….)

  3. Sorry to litter your comments…I’ve been impulsively commenting as I make my way though every new inspiring paragraph of this article….I’ve reached the end, though, so this should be the last one. : )

    Through the years, we’ve fostered and adopted many senior cats and dogs, and I can’t speak highly enough for what joy it brings to a home.

    Our most rewarding case, ironically, was an 11-year-old pit-bull mix who had been abandoned and came to us emaciated with pneumonia, kennel cough, conjunctivitis, and three enormous and hideous skin tags dangling from his butt. Green snot came out of Rocky’s nose constantly for the first two weeks we had him. I followed him around the house with warm, wet towels to clean up his face and went through several boxes of tissues wiping his nose.

    Our plan was to foster him, clean him up, and prepare him for adoption, but once we restored his health, we’d fallen deeply in love and felt that he’d been through enough transition and uncertainty, and we adopted him. He was with us for a year and a half before he died. I wish I could attach a photo of him here — he had a huge and colorful personality that showed through in his photos (will post if I can on Facebook). We’ll never forget him — he was hilarious, bursting with love and gratitude, and he made us laugh every single day.

    Our current dog is Dixie, a 10-year-old who we adopted a few months ago, and once again, we’re head over heels in love. She’s a big clown, and we are grateful for every day we have with her — she’s such a good girl, and she makes us smile and laugh so much.

    Adopt — don’t shop — and give seniors the loving home they deserve! You will not regret it!

  4. The last 3 cats I have adopted were all around 1.5-2 years old. I know that’s not especially “old” but they were full grown and most definitely NOT kittens anymore, which is what seems to attract the most people.

    I will also preface this by saying I was either a volunteer at a shelter (1st cat) or working as a vet assistant/tech at a small animal clinic (cats 2 and 3).

    Siri: I met her as a shelter volunteer while attending college. My goal was to pick a few animals, periodically, and get to know them to better “sell” them to potential adopters. Knowing their little cute habits, favorite toys/hobbies, teaching them tricks, etc all helped to answer questions and match new owners with those specific animals. Siri, then Ravyn, was one of those. An adult (1.5-2 y/o) female, solid BLACK medium hair cat. Unfortunately, not only was she not a kitten, and was solid black, but has a chunk missing out of her nose, a scar on her ear, and a deformed rear leg (not as obvious, but clearly she had been roughed up at some point). To top it off, she was on the TOP shelf of a 3-story wall of cats and kittens. I would take her out and have her hang out in the “socialize” type room that volunteers could hang out with the animals in. Despite having space to roam, treats to eat, toys to play with, etc, all this cat ever did was sit in my lap with her front paws around my neck and her head pushed up under my chin. Every. Single. Time. Clearly, all this cat wanted was attention, and not even in an obnoxious way.

    Despite me distinctly trying to get people to just HOLD this cat, no one wanted to. Not a single person in 6+ months. Anyways, long story short, I just one day (on the way out of town I might add) felt the unstoppable urge to go adopt this cat. So, I did. She was put on the list to get spayed and she was going to be mine. Ironically, when I got back from my weekend away, I went in to check up on her and was told by staff that 2 other people were on the waiting list to adopt her after me. Why? Because she was moved to the middle row of cages in the cat room during her surgery recovery. She was suddenly accessible. Too bad so sad though. She was mine. And the rest is history. She is the cat that is actually getting imported into the Caribbean while I am attending vet school to keep me company for the next couple of years. Costs an arm and a leg to do so, but she is most definitely worth it. She needs that human-animal bond as much as I do. The 6 months so far apart from her has been almost most than both of us can bear.

    Fun fact about Siri: After a number of years, it has been discovered that the poor cat was likely hit by a car (which led to the nose/scar/leg deformity/pelvic deformities) and healed on her own. Also, we found a BB-type pellet in her right flank from being shot at some point. And that car STILL thinks people are the greatest thing. Amazing.

    The next 2 are shorter, I promise:

    Suri: Small, all black, domestic shorthair spayed female, approximately 1.5 years old. Indoor/outdoor cat. Her family brought her, upon recommendation of their normal mobile vet, to my clinic to get X-rays. Turns out, she had a dislocated hip. Her family couldn’t afford to fix the cat, so when one of the vets danced around the “euthanasia option” and dragged out their decision making (vets don’t generally want to euthanize otherwise healthy animals for one fixable issue), I somehow talked myself into another cat I don’t need. So, one FHO (femoral head ostectomy) and $600 later (I got a huge discount since this was a charity case), I ended up with the renamed Suri. She was a little skinny and very very shy, but after healing from her surgery and getting adjusted to life with other animals (completely indoors I might add), she became an extremely affectionate little cat that likes to sleep in the crook of my knees at night 🙂 She’s still a bit shy, but very very sweet if you give her the time of day. Wouldn’t trade her for the world!

    Aiko: Emaciated, flea ridden, unspayed female domestic longhair, about 1.5-ish years old. Very severe heart murmur and eye problems. This cat came with so many issues. She was just a friendly stray someone picked up in the middle-of-literal-nowhere, OR and couldn’t bear to leave her there to starve. Unfortunately, the good Samaritan couldn’t keep her, since she already had 2 very pushy, very large males at home. Not that I needed another (I’m then up to 2 medium sized dogs and the 2 aforementioned cats) either. She tested negative for felv/FIV, which was a plus, and was immediately treated for worms and the fleas. Before the day was out, I had agreed to adopt her because I thought no one in their right mind, especially out of the veterinary field, was going to patch up this sorry case that could keel over any day (from throwing a thrombus due to the severe 5-6/6 heart murmur) except me. Lo and behold, we eventually got her eye cleared up, parasites eliminated, got her spayed, and got her gaining weight (she never turns down a bite!). Nowadays, she is a healthy 8.5 pound GORGEOUS white with brown spots long haired cat with lots of energy (kind of like a kitten frankly) and a ridiculously friendly personality. She, like the others, was worth it.

    Adopting older cats that aren’t kittens= NO REGRETS.

  5. I’ll be brief. In fact, I’m just going to say that I always go for older cats. They have so much more personality than a kitten, I think. I just find them so lovable. And I like to get males in particular, which I believe may also not be most people’s preference. These cats really need someone to take them in, but more than that I find these guys to be the best friends and companions.

    Right now I have Jinx (whom I admit is a Maine Coon I got as a kitten). He is now 18. We got Boris when the shelter guesses he was about seven. He is a strange one. Most pensive cat I have ever met. Just sits and watches everything most of the time. He’s 15 now, and just gets all the more charming. And I got Eddie about two years ago, again the vet guessing him to be about seven. He had spent over a year on the street, mooching off of everyone in a fairly well-to-do neighborhood. (He’s a smart one.)

    I’m embarrassed to say that Ed nearly doubled in size within about three months of arriving. (I can’t well diet him, as Jinxie is ill and needs to eat as much as possible.) When he sleeps on top of my headboard he kind of spills over the edges. I can only imagine (all too well) what it might feel like if he rolled off of there onto me.

    He and Boris are an almost identical orange. Can hardly tell where one stops and the other starts when they are curled up together. Like that sweetheart, Tribble, Eddie has a twittery, tiny meow in a huge boy. And he is the friendliest boy I have ever had. So much personality. My roommates love him as much as I do; in fact I’m amusedly afraid that one roommate might kidnap Eddie whenever he may move.

    So much for just a sentence or two. I guess I just love my boys. Get an older cat. They’re the best!

  6. I’ve always adopted cats. I’ve only had three purebreds that I’ve actively purchased. When I was a kid, it was almost guaranteed that if no one kept an eye on me, I would come home with a cat. I’ve tamed ferals, rescued cats and kittens that were dumped on the street, and most of those cats ended up staying with me or going to family members.

    Torbie passed away in 2014 just before Christmas. She was in her 20s. She showed up in my backyard one afternoon when I was outside playing with a friend in 1998, right before the end of the school year (I was in 5th grade). We fed her and she stayed. My family moved that summer and Torbie came with us. She had a litter of kittens, all of whom found loving homes with friends and my mom’s coworkers, and my dad’s father took Torbie in to be spayed. She went from being an outdoor cat to an indoor cat within a year, and she thrived.

    She was a huge longhaired beast. When I first saw her, I thought she was a tom cat. No, she was just a big kitty with huge green eyes – emerald green near the pupils and yellow at the outer edges – and a lush brown tabby-and-white coat riddled with red patches. She hated the dogs and was not a fan of other cats, so we kept her in the basement. She was never alone down there; the computer was downstairs, and since someone was always downstairs on the computer, Torbie always got attention and a lap. She was Dad’s cat. When we were forced to move, Torbie went with us. We moved one more time, and then Torbie began to decline. We thought about taking her to the vet when it became apparent that she wasn’t going to survive the winter, but at her age, the stress of the whole ordeal would kill her, so we let her die at home. She fell asleep in her favorite place in the kitchen, never to wake up. I was the one who brought her into our home, and I was the one who sat with her as she left. We discovered after that she had breast cancer – a result of having kittens.

    We don’t know how old Torbie was when I found her. We had her for sixteen years, and we had a feeling she was in her 20s when she passed.

    She taught me a lot. She was the physical embodiment of gratitude, she was catitude purrsonified. Most of all, she left a huge hole in my heart that I didn’t think would be there. I’d taken her for granted in ways I never took my Parker-kitty (my Siamese) for granted. In her own quiet way, Torbie had carved out her place, and she will never, ever, EVER be replaced. She was special, and I had her for over half my life and almost all of hers.

    A stray no one wanted became a beloved family member.

    Always give older cats a chance. You’ll find out just how much you still have to learn, but you’ll have a patient teacher.

    1. Okay, I don’t cry over website comments, but this time… Ethan, you are a mega sweetheart. The way that you write about Torbie is so telling of your own compassion and integrity. A guy like you is a special person. Lucky the person that might become your partner. 😉

    2. You only need to replace the names and the gendre of Torbie and you have the story of our childhood extended family member, Papa (short for Papadopolus) who was a brazen tom cat whom nobody thought I’d be able to tame. I created this wild story how he came on a boat from the “old country” from Sicily. (I should be writing childrens’ books!) At first he only came after you would throw food or put down milk and close the door. Then you could slowly come closer and closer to him. You could never touch him. He had to come to you when he wanted. Before we knew it he had been hanging around the house for more than a year and one day out of the blue he actually walked in the house and sat on my lap. It was the start of a 10-year relationship. Papa still liked his freedom and spent most of his time outdoors. He was a great mouser. His lifetime partner “Mama” gave birth to several litters who also remained with us or found loving homes. They loved each other so much. I’ve rarely seen such admiration and devotion to one another.

      Papa had a particular pink sofa he’d go sleep on but only at night after my parents went to sleep. It was our little secret.

      One day, Papa started to have problems using the litter box. He would “miss” his target and either urinate just outside the box or do his business in the corners of the room, much to the dismay of my mother as all the rooms had carpet. Then he stopped eating and became very easily aggravated; we could no longer touch him like before. I reluctantly took him to the vet who diagnosed liver/renal failure. We had him operated upon and he showed hope of recovery. Sadly it was short-lived and he relapsed about a week later. The vet advised not to let him suffer anymore; he was at least 18 years in their estimation. For a “wild” cat that was like a human living to age 150. I cried when my one grandmother died but I cried for 3 months when Papa died. I’ll never forget him as long as I live.

      Papa, I know you are up there in Cat heaven looking down on us and all your offspring, nephews and nieces.

      Give an older cat a chance. You won’t be sorry.

      @Ethan thanks so much for sharing. I think I might have met a kindred spirit of the cat world.


  7. I adopted an older cat last year (8 years old). The main reason I did was because I like in a teeny tiny apartment and my cat has to stay in my room all the time. I didn’t think I could handle a young feisty kitten even though they’re adorable. I turned out to be right because my cat is sooooooo cool and laid back. She likes to cuddle mostly and sometimes she gets really hyper and plays just like a kitten, but with my busy schedule her personality just clicks really well. My roommate on the other hand adopted a young 6 month old kitten. I had to cat sit for a week and it was a nightmare with this little cat jumping all over my bed and desk at all hours of night hitting everything down. Lol. I definitely think this is where an older cat has the advantage, they’re out of that super playful mode that I definitely could not handle. Great post and amazing videos, I’m a huge fan!

  8. Children should be taught to respect dogs too. Just because they are less likely to retaliate doesn’t mean they deserve cruel/careless treatment. And small children shouldn’t be allowed to be around pets without adult supervision, it is dangerous for the children and the pet.

  9. Otis definitely picked us at the shelter! Our thoughts were of getting a kitten but he would have none of that. He has perfect manners and is the most loving cat we have ever had. Please consider adopting an older cat!

  10. I welcomed Jeannie when she was nearly 9 years old. She was nearly completely naked when she arrived. I got her from a breeder. Jeannie had been so unhappy at this place that she had licked out her fur. Horrible sight this cat. I’t didn’t take a long time until she changed into a wonderful queen, with all fur grown back, gracefully sitting on my old-fashioned tv-set blocking my sight with her tail. I enjoyed a wonderful time with her for 6 years. Sadly she died of kidney disease. It was a very good decision to take her in. I am very lucky that I could have her and I still miss that tail when watchig tv. Dear Jeannie now is in my heart and next to me is sitting dear Genny. She inherited Jeannie’s place.
    I often hear people saying they don’t want a new cat because they can’t cope with the loss. Well, I say, yes, the loss was hard but the wonderful life with her was a much longer period and I remember her life, not her death. I am sure Jeannie wanted me to give her place on earth to another cat.

    1. Bridget, I’m one of those “It hurts so bad to lose them, I’ll never adopt again” types. But I always do anyway. You have made some excellent points as to why it is good to adopt again. Thank you.

  11. I adopted my Chief when he was estimated to be about 6. I went to the shelter to simply play with the cats and get them some exercise, an activity an old roommate and I enjoyed. As with so many others, Chief chose me and I didn’t really have a choice besides to take him home with me. I was just positive I needed him to be mine.

    Two years later and he is the best little thing that has come into my life. He follows me everywhere, chirping and meowing. He was a barn cat before the shelter so he enjoys going outside and catching me presents. The little pumpkin knows, I’m sure, that he chose me and I rescued him. He is my best little buddy and my favorite to curl up and watch TV with at the end of the day.

    As an older cat he definitely already had a personality and quirks, mostly was a tough guy that loved food. That personality of his is what made me love him to start. Since I’ve had him, though, he has become more and more loving, less tough, and frankly is a bit of a baby now, but he is happy. So it is safe to say that older cats grow just as or more attached to you as kittens you raise. 🙂

  12. I adopted a 9-year-old cat that had spent two years in one foster home after another. I’ve always wondered how the family could give up a pet after 7 years, but it was none of my business. I had her for 4 years, sadly she died of heart failure at age 13. In her last weeks she slept under my chin, the darling.

  13. I currently have a 16 year old tom cat who I found as a tiny kitten and had to bottle feed when a baby. About 6 years ago I adopted a black cat from the local shelter. He was a stray so no idea how old he was. Probably around 1-2. He came up to me meowing and purring and I instantly fell in love. And he got along with my dog. Unusual because he hates all other dogs. 3 years ago I found a pure white deaf cat on Craigslist, drove 1.5 hours away and picked him up. All male cats, and the female border collie get along great. They are all super mellow and laid back. About a week ago I was looking around online and saw a 10 year old blind torti. Went to just look. Well now she’s hanging out in my laundry room, purring everytime I go talk to her. She doesn’t seem to mind the dog, a border collie, who absolutely loves all cats, the males look at her and walk away. I think one did hiss a bit tonight thou. But I couldn’t leave her at that shelter. Her previous owner was an old lady who went to a nursing home. I’m hoping she’ll fit right in, and with this mellow bunch I think she will

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