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The Appeal of Adult Cats
Everyone loves cute little kittens, and who can blame them? Unfortunately, this means many adult cats go unappreciated and unloved, sitting in shelter cages until someone takes pity on them and adopts them. And not all of them are even that lucky, too many older cats are put down by shelters after too much time goes by and no one will take them home. And it's terrible, because older cats can be just as good of pets as their baby selves.
My family's first cat was a kitten, lively and inquisitive. When he died, we wanted to get another one to replace him but my mother chose an adult who'd just given birth. Her reasoning? "All her kittens will be adopted eventually, but everyone ignores the older cats. She looked so sad." A pity adoption, maybe, but it was the best choice we could have made. We named her Maggie, took her home and once she got used to us she became friendlier than most dogs. My sister's friend even said she was like a dog once, when he came over and Maggie wouldn't stop rubbing against his leg. People often remarked on how Maggie wasn't like other cats, not as aloof. (Though she did follow the typical cat tradition of demanding attention from people she knew didn't care for cats. Especially my Nana.)
She passed away last year. She was 18, which is a good long life for a cat, and we'd had a lot of good years with her. After she passed, I wanted to get a couple of kittens as my new pet, but the shelter didn't have many. The ones they did have weren't very friendly, and to top it off so many of the older cats were cute enough that I would have taken half of them if I had the space. But in the end, I chose this one.
This is Lina. She was two years old when I adopted her and she's just as beloved as Maggie was. I looked at a lot of adults before I chose her, but even before then she caught my eye. The shelter assistant even said if I held her she'd never leave me alone, which has proven true. I can barely leave a room without her getting up and following me!
Sometimes it's easy to forget how old she is, because she has a lot of the same mannerisms as a cat a fourth of her age. In some ways she's even better than a kitten would have been.
The benefits of an older cat
Adult cats have several advantages people don't think about. Kittens are cute, but they need to be blocked off for three days to a week and watched constantly. Some need to be properly litter trained and might soil on the floors or the carpets. Their diets change as they get older, some don't take to diet transitions very well. They're more vulnerable to diseases and parasites, especially if they're outdoor cats. They may be cute, but they require a flexible schedule and a ton of attention. Plus, their personalities can't always be determined; the sweet little baby you take home from the shelter might grow up to be cranky and selfish.
By contrast, adults already have their personalities formed so you have some idea of what you're getting yourself into. Not always, mind you; Lina seemed like a docile sweetheart at the shelter but she's a lot more active and doesn't enjoy being held for more than a minute at a time. But a vague idea is better than none at all. They're also less prone to getting lost or slipping into cracks, negating the need to keep them isolated in a single room. They're already litter-trained, and you can start them on adult food right away. If they're between the ages of 1 and 3 you can even train them to answer commands or do tricks if they're willing to listen. (Spoilers: They usually aren't unless there's an edible reward in it for them. But hey, if it works for dogs!)
Adults can be just as playful as kittens, too. Lina can usually be seen with a toy between her front paws, and she loves to attack anything that dangles or moves. She jumps around so much that half the time I have to remind her where she doesn't belong (on top of the DVD player) or make sure she's safe. Laser pointers are also a good choice, cats seldom get tired of chasing that little dot around no matter how old they are but it's especially good for older ones who have energy to burn off.
Some may argue that older cats are more prone to health issues and concerns about weight, diet and disease. This is both true and false; the older a cat is the more you'll need to keep an eye on their health, just like you would with an elderly parent or grandparent. Some cats have special needs regardless of age. But a healthy cat should never be that big of a concern as long as they see the vet at least once a year and are up to date on their shots. A steady diet of high-quality cat food and the occasional treat, a clean litter box, plenty of fresh water and lots of exercise will keep a cat of any age in good shape no matter what. Maggie only showed signs of slowing down in the last year or so of her life.
And really, a cat doesn't have to be a kitten to be adorable. Cats have this way about them that makes you think they're still little babies even when they're ten! And let's face it, just like you'll always be your mother's baby even when you're an adult, your cat will always be your baby.
Kittens are fun. But don't count out an older cat so quickly, they need love too. Next time you go to the shelter, consider giving an adult a chance.