Mature cats make the best companions

The RSPCA of South Australia tell us about how mature cats are often overlooked and ignored but they truly make the best companions.

We unfortunately live in an ageist culture that worships youth in all its unwrinkled beauty and undervalues older people bearing the creases of life experience. Women over fifty, in particular, talk of suddenly feeling invisible. They will recount stories of retail assistants appearing to ignore them at the front, and instead serving the young attractive woman standing behind them. “Oh, I didn’t see you there,” doesn’t really cut it.

This must be how the older cats at RSPCA’s currently over-crowded Lonsdale animal shelter must feel, especially now with kitten season upon us. Try as they might to attract the attention of potential adopters as they wander between the enclosures, it is very hard to compete when there are kittens in all their cuteness beckoning.

“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.”

Many of the older cats arriving at the shelter have been surrendered to the charity’s care due to their owners either going into residential care or passing away. Overnight, their worlds are turned upside down as they find themselves in an unfamiliar environment and without the comfort of the human they have come to rely 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. 

Currently among them is Charlie, still handsome and hugely affectionate at 13. This fluffy white smoocher arrived at the shelter in early December, surrendered because his elderly owner could no longer care for him. 

And 17-year-old Cindy, who arrived via animal ambulance in late November, emaciated and with matted fur and a chronic facial abscess. Despite all this, Cindy found the strength to literally run up to the RSPCA rescue officer who came to collect her and immediately showed herself to be one of the friendliest cats you could meet. After veterinary care at the Lonsdale clinic, this sweet old girl is doing well and waiting for a forever home. 

Also 17 years old is Felix, surrendered to RSPCA more than three months ago after his owner died. He arrived with a mouth of rotting teeth and a coat so matted he had to be shaved. Now recovered, Felix is living with one of RSPCA’s dedicated volunteer foster carers until he finds his new home.

In human years, Charlie is 68 while Cindy and Felix are 84. RSPCA classifies any cat over seven as senior, even though a seven year old cat is just 44 in human years. 

Like humans, some cats remain sprightly well into old age while others slow down prematurely. 

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 black 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.

RSPCA South Australia

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