Why mature cats often make the best companions
Kittens are cute, but older cats can be cuddlier. Find out why mature, mellow felines can be the perfect lap-loving companion pets.
According to Cats Protection, unwanted feline OAPs are sitting unloved on the shelf while all the bright young kittens are quickly snapped up. To understand exactly why older cats are overlooked, the charity commissioned a survey, which produced some revealing results, including:
- 23% of respondents would consider any cat aged over five years as ‘older’. However, a five-year-old cat is only 36 in human years and a cat generally isn’t classed as a senior until it reaches 11 years of age
- Under a quarter of survey respondents said they would be likely to consider an older cat, compared to 68% of respondents who would be likely to consider getting a kitten
- The top reasons given for not considering an older cat were that it might not live long (72%), it would be more likely to get ill (56%) and it would cost money if unwell (40%)
- Almost a fifth (19%) of people who were unlikely to consider an older cat said that one of the reasons was that older cats are not very playful
Becky Piggott, Cats Protection Senior Cat Care Assistant and long-standing mature cat devotee, says: “I am absolutely passionate about older cats and have adopted 14 of them over the years. I am currently the proud owner of Brigadier Monty Bojangles who is a very young-at-heart 15-year-old!
“Offering a loving retirement home to an older cat is incredibly rewarding. Older cats have just as much to offer as kittens – they tend to stay closer to home, are very affectionate and provide amazing companionship. With improvements in cat care, the quality of life for older moggies has greatly increased so people definitely shouldn’t be put off adopting one.”
CAT YEARS EXPLAINED
According to feline welfare charity International Cat Care, there are six life stages for cats:
Kitten – 0-6 months A period when the young cat is growing rapidly and is usually not quite sexually mature
Junior – 7 months-2 years During this time the cat reaches full size and learns about life and how to survive it
Prime – 3-6 years A cat is mature physically and behaviourally, and is still usually healthy and active, looking sleek and shiny and making the best of life
Mature – 7-10 years A cat is what we call 'mature', equivalent to humans in their mid-40s to mid-50s
Senior – 11-14 years This takes the cat up to the equivalent of about 70 human years
Super Senior – 15 years and over Many cats do reach this stage, some not showing any signs of being so senior in age
The challenge of caring for kittens v older cats who know the ropes
Of course, kittens are gorgeously mischievous bundles of fluff – but they require a lot of time and energy. Importantly, young kittens shouldn’t be left for longer than four to five hours as they need regular meals throughout the day and close monitoring.
Plus, in order to develop into confident adults, kittens need lots of positively managed interactions with different people and careful introductions to all the bewildering sounds, sights, smells and sensations of a household – vacuuming, TV/radio, people coming and going etc. Helping a kitten to get the best start in life is a big responsibility – you can find out more about all the things you need to consider with the PDSA's Kitten Checklist.
It may be the case that adopting a more mature, adult cat who knows the ropes and is desperate for a comfy lap to nap in may suit you better than a demanding kitten. Most adult cats can be left alone for a working day quite happily, although every cat is an individual.
Sam Barry, Cat Rehomer at Battersea, Old Windsor, advises: “Older cats are considerably calmer, so they’re good for elderly and less active people as they won’t be running around their legs like kittens do. And their personality is established – so when the adopter comes to meet them, they have a real sense of the cat they’re taking home. Older cats often come to us because their owner has passed away or gone into hospital, and they’re used to having a loving, affectionate relationship with a human and they really enjoy lap time. They’re also less active, sleep for longer and hunt less – which makes them a good choice for people who don’t like prey being brought into the house. They can also cope if a person is out all day at work, which makes them suitable for younger working people who want an affectionate pet to greet them when they get home and to enjoy interaction and cuddles with, in the evening.”
Home comforts for second-chance cats
Giving mature cats time to adjust to their new home a is essential. Sam Barry adds: “Sometimes people forget to give older cats time and space to settle in. It’s all new to them, which is very stressful to cats, and they’re often still dealing with the grief of losing their owner. They need time to get used to a new home, so it feels familiar, and they start to feel secure and confident again.”
Also important is ensuring all the facilities an older cat needs are easy for them to access. “People may not realise that older felines with stiffer joins find it harder to climb up stairs or get up onto a high spot, which many cats love, so they need to think about adapting the environment to make it easier for an older cat to get about and access everything they need.
“Without a doubt, some things are more challenging – such as managing their health care and adapting their environment – but there are so many benefits to owning an older, calmer feline who’s well practiced in the art of being a companion cat. Younger cats need more attention, training and activities to keep them fulfilled, whereas older cats are content with affection and a warm lap to lie on. They just need that second chance.”
Adopting a cat: where will you get your new feline friend from?
Leading animal welfare charity rehoming centres such as: Cats Protection, Blue Cross, Battersea, Wood Green and RSPCA always have all sorts of cats looking for loving homes. Reputable welfare organisations will health check their cats, make sure they’re up to date with vaccinations and worming, and many do ‘temperament testing’ to match the most suitable cat to your home and lifestyle. They’ll also offer plenty of helpful advice on caring for your new cat and provide you with post-adoption support. Never buy from newspapers, websites or a pet shop. ARE YOU READY FOR A CAT? >>
Here are Battersea’s top 5 tips for cat adopters
- Meet basic needs: Provide food, water, a litter tray, a bed, several places to hide, places to get up high, cosy places to sleep, somewhere to scratch, enrichment inside and outdoors and veterinary care.
- Create activity zones: Place your cat’s resources and facilities, such as food, water, litter tray, scratching post, bed and hiding place, in different locations around the house, ensuring your cat can access them whenever they need to.
- Encourage scenting: Use Feliway® to encourage your cat to scent mark their new space. Once things start to smell familiar, the cat will begin to feel safe and secure.
- Set a routine: Not only do cats feel safe when they are surrounded by familiar things, they like their home and routines to be predictable and consistent. This helps them to feel more in control of their environment.
- Let the cat make the choice: Stay still and let the cat approach you. Speak gently and offer them your hand (palm down) to sniff or rub against. If they rub against your hand with their chin or cheeks, try gently stroking around that area, but stop as soon as they move away. Focus on the chin and cheeks as this is where most cats like being touched. Some cats may prefer to play rather than be stroked, so try swishing a fishing-rod-style toy or throw some treats for them to chase.
How the right nutrition can help support a long, happy and healthy life
With an average life expectancy of around 16 years, it’s no surprise a cat’s nutrition needs change throughout the different stages of their life. Burgess in-house vet, Dr Suzanne Moyes, explains: “Over the past few decades, the science of pet nutrition has come a long way. We now know much more about the significant role nutrition plays when it’s tailored to the different stages of our pets’ development, ensuring the optimum quality of life for the longest time possible.”
Many older cats develop specific health conditions – such as arthritis – some of which can be eased by diet. Tasty Burgess Mature Cat with Turkey & Cranberry is a complete dry food for cats over 7 years old. It’s been specially designed to support cats into their senior years and includes highly digestible proteins to help maintain strong muscles, natural antioxidants to support the immune system and glucosamine to support healthy joints. Find out more about feeding your cat here >>
CARE MORE Discover more about all aspects of caring for your cat from the pet experts >>
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