Women over fifty in particular often express feeling invisible, sharing stories of being ignored by retail assistants who instead prioritise younger customers standing behind them. “Oh, I didn’t see you there,” doesn’t really cut it.
This unfortunate reality parallels the plight of the older cats at RSPCA’s overcrowded Lonsdale animal shelter, particularly during the current kitten season. Despite their efforts to capture the attention of potential adopters, these mature felines struggle to compete with the irresistible charm of adorable kittens.
“It’s heartbreaking to watch, actually,” says RSPCA South Australia’s Cat Care Team leader Jacky Barrett, known to her colleagues as the quintessential cat whisperer.
“You’ll see these truly beautiful adult cats brushing up against the wire, meowing in the hope they will prompt someone to stop at their enclosure and give them some attention. Yes, they are older, but they still have a lot of years ahead and lots of love to give.”
A significant number of older cats brought to the shelter have been entrusted to the care of the charity because their owners have either moved into residential care or passed away. This sudden change upends their lives, as they are thrust into an unfamiliar environment without the comforting presence of the humans they have grown to depend on.
“Going from their owner’s home to suddenly being in a shelter inevitably causes distress to these animals, no matter how much loving professional care we give them,” Jacky said.
“It takes time for them to settle down and adjust, and until that happens you don’t really know what the cat’s character is like.”
When it comes to comparing the adoption of a kitten with the adoption of an older cat, RSPCA SA’s entire cat care team is quick to champion the advantages of the latter.
“Kittens are cute and cuddly, but they’re also bundles of energy, demanding attention, whereas our older cats are much calmer companions,” says Jacky.
“They need less supervision than kittens and are less likely to damage your home if you’re not around to supervise.
“Many of them are used to living with other animals, so will easily adapt to that kind of multi-pet household.
“And their personalities are fully developed – our team can tell you exactly what kind of character a specific cat has, and whether the two of you would make a good match.”
At any one time, there are around 100 adult cats waiting for new homes at the Lonsdale shelter.
One senior cat adopted recently from RSPCA, 20-year-old Pippin, showed how age is no barrier to an active life. By the time she came to the Lonsdale shelter she had outlived two owners. Her adopter, 35-year-old Mathew, has a soft spot for older cats and was not spooked by this sleek girl’s past.
“Pippin went to the kind of home we want for all these beautiful cats,” Jacky says, adding that Mathew seems to be running a retirement home for cats, having already taken in two elderly moggies.
“She is almost 100 in human years, but you’d never know it, and she’s now living her best life.
“Mathew tells us she’s returning the love and affection she gets in droves, and finds her way onto his lap whenever he sits down.
“It may sound strange, but so many people who adopt older cats tell us that they’re convinced their pets know that they’re being given a second chance at life.”
“It’s just a way they have of looking at you, as though they’re saying ‘Thank you’.”
All cats available to adopt from RSPCA South Australia are desexed, vaccinated, microchipped and health checked. Their adoption fee is just $39.
To view animals available to adopt: