Local animal shelters give senior pets a second chance during Senior Pet Month

Photo by Craig Reynolds. Shelter cat available for adoption at APA Adoption Center.

Whether it’s a German shepherd or tabby cat, pets can bring love and joy to their owner’s life. And while puppies and kittens are usually the superstars of animal shelters and pet stores, senior pets deserve the same companionship.

Elderly pets are in the spotlight this November for National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, and local animal shelters have plenty of pets – including seniors – with love to spare. The Animal Protection Association (APA) Adoption Center adopts out thousands of pets annually; this year, they’re set for a record-breaking 5,000 adoptions. Similarly, Stray Rescue of St. Louis – which just celebrated its 25th anniversary – takes in and rehomes pets turned away by other organizations.

Photo by Craig Reynolds. Shelter cats inside their kennels at the APA Adoption Center. To the right is the “Catio,” a windowed box where free-range cats can relax and enjoy the outdoors safely.

The APA adopts out senior pets to new owners at a fast rate, despite the public’s misconceptions about the cost of owning an elderly animal. The shelter’s veterinary team ensures every animal is as healthy as possible before adoption, allowing owners to enjoy the benefits of owning an older pet without worrying about the added cost of medical bills.

“I think that a lot of the animals we see still have a lot of life left in them, and a lot of love left to give,” Sarah Javier, president and CEO of the APA, said. “We have some people come in looking specifically for older pets because they want to give them a chance at being in a home for the remainder of their life, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Photo by Craig Reynolds. A dog park behind the APA Adoption Center where shelter dogs can play and interact with potential new owners.

The unique experience of adopting a senior pet has practical benefits, as well as personal ones. Older animals have passed the hyper, destructive phase and instead often are easy-going, making them ideal companions for those with calmer lifestyles.

“If you’re looking for a dog or a cat who just wants to lay around and watch TV, they’re usually up for that. But a lot of them, even if they’re a little bit older, still have some playfulness left,” Javier said.

To match senior pets with the perfect owners, Stray Rescue offers a Seniors for Seniors program in which the shelter waives adoption fees. Older adults are paired with senior pets to match their activity levels with a promise of medical care from the shelter as needed. Director of marketing Natalie Thomson emphasizes the special relationship between a senior pet and its owner.

“We believe that all pets deserve a loving home, and all homes deserve a loving pet, regardless of age. Elderly dogs have just as much love and companionship to give. They have lived long, often difficult lives, and deserve to receive love and comfort as well,” Thomson said.

Contributed photo by Annie McBride. Former editor-in-chief Alex Darmody’s old senior dog, Bingo.

Depending on the situation, Stray Rescue also provides medical support for adopted senior pets, aiming to give older animals the chance to leave the noisy shelter and be spoiled during their golden years. Accompanying a senior pet during this precious time is an irreplaceable experience.

“Probably the biggest reason we hear why someone doesn’t want a senior pet is because ‘I won’t have much time with them.’ This is a relevant fear to have to say goodbye, but to have enriched that dog’s life with a love they have yearned for their entire life is one of life’s most beautiful gifts. It is an experience you will remember forever,” Thomson said.

Photo by Craig Reynolds. APA Adoption Center on S Hanley Road in Brentwood, MO.

Those interested in adopting or fostering a pet from Stray Rescue can visit strayrescue.org to fill out an application or walk in at 2320 Pine St. in St. Louis. To reach the APA for fostering or adoption, visit apamo.org or go to 1705 S Hanley Road in Brentwood.

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Molly Foust (she/her) is the Editor-in-Chief for The Journal. She was previously the News & Lifestyle editor in 2022. She is a junior Journalism major at Webster University, but in fall 2023, she will be transferring to the University of Hartford to major in Digital Media and Journalism with an emphasis in Media Studies. She has been writing for The Journal since her freshman year, and she graduated from Seckman High School in 2021. She is also a Writing Coach at the Reeg Academic Resource Center. She loves animals and has two cats named Cisco and Hellboy (and a rat named George), which fuel her passion for environmental journalism. She enjoys studying biology, psychology and feminist literature, and her favorite things to do are listen to music (especially Amy Winehouse), and spend time with her friends at The Journal!