Losing a loved one — especially one you share a home with — changes your whole world. After years of companionship, finding a new rhythm to your days can be incredibly difficult, not to mention lonely. There's no easy way to deal with grief, but some seniors have found that adopting senior cats can help to ease the pain of their loss.
Cats provide company and routine for their owners in a time when it's desperately needed. They also lower stress levels and reduce the risk of depression.
Senior cats in particular are the purr-fect feline friends for people in the advanced years of life. PAWS, an organization in Washington state, saw the bond between senior cats and humans and started a Seniors for Seniors adoption program to help senior citizens to experience the joy of being a pet parent and senior pets to find loving homes.
The organization places senior cats and dogs with adults who are 60 years of age or older. They've found that the home environments of seniors are a great match for older pets and, because these sweet fur babies are harder to find homes for, they're truly rescuing each other.
How Can a Cat Help You Cope?
In the early days of loss, you may be surrounded by family and friends. But as the weeks and months pass, you may find yourself needing to make a change in your life and fill your time.
When you're ready, there are many advantages to welcoming a feline friend into your home.
According to the National Institute on Aging, when you're grieving, you feel both physical and emotional pain. You may also experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.
However, research shows that fur babies can help to improve emotional and physical health. A survey of pet parents showed that 74% of pet owners had improved mental health thanks to their fur babies.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America claims that owning a pet "can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation." When pet parents interact with their animals, there are measurable changes in oxytocin levels in the brain and a noticeable reduction of fear and anxiety.
The American Heart Association shares that having a pet can increase fitness levels, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and boost overall happiness and well-being. In other words, your heart is healthier with a fur baby to love.
Companionship & Interaction
Being a pet parent helps you settle into a routine, which can provide welcomed stability in times of turmoil.
Cats need to be fed daily, interact with their people, and generally be looked after. While they are lower maintenance pets than dogs who need to be walked multiple times a day, they do need your care (whether they'd like to admit it or not).
In addition, cats provide companionship and decrease loneliness. Sharing your home with someone — even if that someone has fur — makes a house feel more like a home. Plus, it's always nice to have someone to come home to at the end of the day.
Owning a pet can also provide you with opportunities to interact with others, as well. You may meet other pet parents at the vet or find that you have kitties in common with others in your life.
Shared interests can spark the chance for new friendships — and who wouldn't be interested in seeing adorable cat pictures on your phone?
Consider Senior Cats, Pretty Please
While young kittens are easy to find homes for, senior cats often go overlooked in shelters. Older cats are in great need of loving homes, but beyond that, senior cats have many wonderful qualities that would make you feel very furr-tunate to have them as a part of your family.
According to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, unlike younger kitties, older cats are often calmer, gentler companions and they are more likely to be litter-trained.
An older cat is also more likely to be socialized, so she'll know how to behave — and how not to behave. Although a little mischief can be exciting from time to time, if you enjoy not having someone bat at your feet while you sleep or don't want your flowers knocked off the table, senior cats may be for you.
Senior cats also tend to sleep more and enjoy being warm. Cuddles and naps on the couch, anyone?
Dr. Richard Goldstein says older cats enjoy more predictable days and generally require more attention than younger cats. Older cats like spending time with their human family members and are reassured by routine.
Senior cats need to be hand groomed more than younger kitties as their self-grooming tends to wane in later years, but a little TLC and bonding time may be just what you need, as well.
Have you added a senior fur baby to your family or do you know of an older family member that has benefited from adopting a cat? We'd love to hear from you!
Share your story with us and other pet parents in the comments below.