There’s nothing more endearing than a kitten. But they also can be nonstop dynamos, frustrating to predict and a magnet for trouble. Although kittens can be wonderful fun, nothing matches the deep bond we have developed with our old cat buddies over a period of years.
Older Cats Advantages
Mature cats have many advantages over kittens. Probably the biggest advantage is that together you have created a partnership, and already know each other and have adjusted to individual needs and foibles. All the hard work is done. She’s been trained to scratch the scratching post and uses the litter box. You trust her not to swing from the drapes or empty the potted palm while you’re away.
She’s learned to wake you promptly at 6:45 for work and meets you at the door each evening. She no longer climbs the Christmas tree, unrolls the toilet paper, and only rearranges your sock drawer if you’re gone overnight and she’s lonely.
She stopped hiding the kids’ stuffed animals, and settles for the toy squeaky mouse she’s carried around like a teddy bear since you brought her home ten years ago. She reminds you when it’s time for a pill and afternoon nap—for both of you.
Older Cats Are Better for Children
And she acts like the new grandbaby is her own kitten, and showers the infant with attention, gentle play, and protective care—dropping favorite cat toys in the crib, and even putting up with toddler tail tugs with a patient feline purr. Countless children have learned to walk while reaching for the tempting tail of a feline friend.
In fact, one of the best ways to introduce young children to the positive aspects of cats is with a calm, patient adult animal. Parents already have their hands full dealing with infants and toddlers, and don’t need the added stress of an in-your-face kitten. Children can share birthdays with the aging cat and still be relatively young when she enters her golden years. It’s not unusual for young people to say that one special cat has always been a part of their life—and in times of family crises or emotional upset, the cat can ease the tension and help heal the pain simply by being there to pet and talk to. A broken heart, disagreements with siblings or parents, even physical or emotional trauma can all be helped by the mere presence of a cat that the child loves.
An older cat can be a stabilizing influence on children, teach responsibility and empathy for other living creatures, and even act as a social bridge toward making friends with their peers. For example, a child shy of interacting with other children because of a perceived disability often comes out of her shell when accompanied by a furry friend–the cat remains the focus of interaction rather than the child’s “different” look or behavior. Older cats often are ideal for such relationships, because they aren’t as active as younger cats, may be more patient and have learned what to expect. There’s a benefit to the old cat, too—playing and interacting with children keeps the kitty brain and body active and youthful.
Health Benefits of Owning A older Cat
The advantages of loving an older cat are not limited to children. Studies have shown that contact with cats offers great physical and emotional health benefits to people, from children and adolescents to adults and senior citizens. Couples whose children have left for college and are recent empty nesters can receive great comfort by the presence of a furry companion. People of any age who lose a spouse from divorce or death—but particularly older owners—benefit greatly from a cat’s nonjudgmental love. For instance, petting a cat lowers the blood pressure; and caring for a cat gives owners a purpose to concentrate on beyond the hurt and pain. Playing with and grooming the cat, shopping for litter and food, giving medicine to an old kitty friend, keeps people connected to the world and other people around them.
And because the pets that we love are good for human health, just having a cat around can reduce the trips owners take to their own doctors. Some physicians recommend that heart attack survivors keep a pet because it increases their survival.
People of all ages, whose human family members live far away, become even more emotionally dependent on the cat.
Older Cats Understand Your Feelings
Prolonging the cat’s life touches on a host of social and emotional issues. Cats who have spent a decade or more with us have learned what we like and expect—and we’ve learned to anticipate the senior cat’s needs, likes, and dislikes. Over the span of years, we build and then enjoy a comfortable companionship together. Our aging pets share with us our life experiences, successes, and failures, joys, and sorrows, and they represent milestones in our lives, says Signe Beebe, DVM, a veterinary acupuncturist and herbologist practicing in Sacramento. They may have celebrated with us when we graduated from school, married, and had children or grandchildren—or comforted us when we divorced, retired, or lost a spouse.
They have been there for us, through everything. The more time we spend together, the greater our affection grows. Our compassion, love, and empathy for each other reach a depth that has no parallel in human existence.