Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My 84-year-old mother wants a cat. What should she get? A male? A female? Kitten or grown? She lives with my sister in a large apartment with two verandas. I am quite surprised that she wants one. She never spoke about it. When she comes to visit us, she is so taken up with our cat she can’t take her eyes off her. What should I do?
Thomas: Good thing you asked, Brian. Cats can really enrich an older person’s life, but there are some important things to consider when seniors are interested in adopting cats.
Bella: First of all, we recommend against a kitten for older people. Many older people have limited mobility, and a kitten’s antics can pose a risk for falls and other injuries like scratches to delicate skin.
Tara: Another thing to consider is how your sister feels about having a cat in the house. As much as you may hate to think about it, the cat your mother adopts may live longer than your mother, so your sister needs to understand that and be willing to not only assist in the cat’s care if your mother has trouble with chores like cleaning the litter box but to possibly become the cat’s primary caretaker.
Thomas: We don’t think the cat’s sex matters as much as the cat’s personality. What is it your mother likes the most about your cat? What would she like in a cat of her own? A snuggle buddy? An independent friend? Somewhere in between?
Bella: How do your mother and sister feel about a cat’s level of vocalization. Some people love cats that “talk” a lot, and others don’t care for that as much.
Tara: We’d recommend that your mother and sister discuss what they would and would not like in a feline housemate before searching for a cat of their own. I know what can happen when people end up not liking the cat they bring home … *sniffle*
Thomas: There, there, Tara, it’s okay. Can I give you a kiss on the nose and make you feel better?
Tara: Eek! I mean, maybe not right now, but thank you for offering.
Thomas: Okay. But you know we love you, right?
Tara: I guess so.
Bella: Oh, Tara, I love you right to the moon and back! Can I be your friend?
Tara: I’ll try, sweet one.
Thomas: Anyway, Brian, there’s this really cool thing that a lot of shelters do …
Bella: It’s called “Seniors for Seniors,” and it’s a program where if an elderly person adopts an older cat, the adoption fee is either deeply discounted or waived completely.
Tara: Don’t be afraid of adopting a “senior” cat — some people say cats become seniors at age 7, which is ridiculous! A well cared-for indoor cat can live into their late teens.
Thomas: We’ve even seen cats that lived into their 20s.
Bella: Senior cats can be perfect companions for senior citizens! Elder kitties tend to be a lot mellower than young cats, and they’ll be perfectly content spending lots of time close to your mother. The odds of trip-and-fall hazards are really decreased with an older cat, because they don’t tend to run under people’s feet.
Tara: Mama says she knows from experience that a lot of the older cats you find in shelters are there because their guardians passed away and nobody else in the family could take them. So if your mother wants to adopt a senior kitty, that cat will probably come with lots of experience around older people.
Thomas: And like we said, we’re sure a senior kitty would be able to provide your mother with years of good companionship and joy.
Bella: So we hope that your mother would be willing to consider adopting an elder kitty and making that cat’s golden years the best they can possibly be. And we hope your sister is willing to help with caring for the cat, too.
Tara: What about you other readers? Do you know of older people who adopted cats? How did it work out for them? Have you adopted a senior cat? Please share your stories and advice about helping elderly people find the best cat for them!