An elderly man with white hair bends down to nuzzle a black and white cat.

Image Credit : Pietro Schellino

We've all seen sad stories when it comes to animal adoption. In most cases, if there's an option on which pet is taken in, it's almost always the younger ones. This is true for all forms of adoption, and while it’s not quite as much the case with cats as other pets, it's still sad to see an otherwise sweet and beautiful cat get passed over simply because they are that bit older.

The truth is that while kittens are a great pet for some people, you'd be surprised at just how amazing older cats can be when bringing them into your household. In most instances, older cats are only ever up for adoption because of outside circumstances and, of course, if they could tell us themselves, they’d say they want to find a loving family to care for them.

If you're adamant about getting a kitten, then there's little anyone could say to change your mind. For those, on the other hand, that is at least open to caring for an older cat, you'll find that they are an incredible joy to be around and (for some owners) even better than their younger counterparts.

Don’t forget that although the average lifespan of a cat is 12 to 15 years, many live a lot longer into their twenties. That’s a lot of love left to share.

Older Cats Don't Need As Much Attention

Whereas kittens are reminiscent of newborns, older cats are more like roommates. This is probably most clearly seen in how they interact with their environment. In most instances, a young kitten is quick to want to investigate its surroundings and is very curious. This is super cute... until it isn't. For many, the constant badgering and jumping and clawing can go from sweet and endearing to grating and exhausting pretty quickly. It's why you'll find yourself having to pay for a ton of standalone toys to keep them suitably distracted while you're going about your daily life.

Older cats pretty much know how everything works right out of the gate. You won't have to worry about them sticking their nose or paw in the garbage disposal or attempting to climb a chandelier. They’ll also need less (or no) house training and should be used to a litter box, whether they’ve used a standard tray or a self-cleaning one in their former life. As long as they know where their bed is, where the litter box is, where the food is, and where you are to snuggle with now and again, they're good!

You Can Know Beforehand If They Play Well With Others

One of the big upsides to an older cat is that most shelters and rescues will be able to give you a more complete run-through on them. This includes their behavior, how they get along with other humans or pets, and if they potentially pose even a small danger to children, especially toddlers and babies. This isn't necessarily the case for young kittens because the shelter generally doesn't have any time to get to know their behavioral quirks.

While most kittens are shaped by their environment, some can grow up to be pretty wild and perhaps even aggressive no matter their upbringing. Knowing where your cat stands before you pick them up is a huge positive, especially if you have other cats, pets, or young children.

Older Cats Are Less Trouble

Not only do most older cats need a lot less attention and supervision compared to kittens, but they also get into considerably less trouble, generally for the same reason.

Kittens are a ball of explosive energy that is difficult to contain. These little guys can rip and roar through a home just when they’re playing. This is particularly true at around 9-18 months old when they are just really getting into their stride. One of the issues, however, is that this rambunctious spirit can result in a lot of ruined walls and furniture. I'm talking about a few things here but I'll keep it focused on chewing and scratching (more on "spraying" later). A kitten is likely going to turn just about everything into their scratch post while also being quick to knock things over and otherwise just cause a mess. And it’s not easy teaching a kitten to stop scratching!

Older cats, while still requiring some level of attention and energy focused on them, are considerably more relaxed and mellowed out compared to kittens. These guys will have tons of fun playing with cat toys if you're interested but are just as quick to chill out and sleep on the windowsill. Unless you're getting a cat with a known wild side, you shouldn't have to deal with virtually any of the less savory parts that come with a kitten.

Older Cats Are Likely Spayed & Neutered 

A great point to consider is that your older cats will have already been neutered. For many, this alone makes older cats the ideal way to go. By having your cat neutered, you reduce the chance of them spraying your house as their territory or prowling your neighborhood for any random female cat they see.

In many cases, younger cats will be too small to neuter, meaning you'll have to set that up as a separate vet trip. The issue with this is that by the time you decide to take them to the vet they may have already gotten into the habit of spraying things. Unless you're quick to resolve this, they can end up spraying even after they've been neutered.

Older Cats Can Be Therapeutic

A grey and brown striped cat is pet in the lap of someone wearing a red sweater.

Image Credit: Matthias Zomer

One of the more interesting things about older cats is that, because they are older cats up for adoption, they've likely been through their fair share of issues. For many people that may be interested in getting an older cat, it's likely because they are less of a stressor compared to smaller kittens. If that's the case, older cats can not only be a great pets, but they can also be a sort of therapeutic friend that keeps you company when you need it and leaves you alone when you need that too.


As an example of this, my mother got an older cat from a local shelter. It was amazing how much the two were in sync with one another. Often, the cat would be sure to leave her alone whenever my mom was working and would be there to play with whenever they were relaxing and watching tv or hanging outside in the backyard.


Simply put, while kittens are great in their way, they simply don't have the living experience the same way older cats do.


An Act Of Kindness


As I said right at the start, it’s often the case that senior cats are overlooked at the shelter.


So, perhaps the greatest reason you should consider adopting an older cat is not that it may well make a better pet for you but because it’s such a positive choice for the cat. Rather than leaving them languishing in the shelter, you can be the person that makes a difference in their life.


By choosing them and bringing them home, you are giving them comfort and security in their later years and undoubtedly bringing joy to what may have been a tough life.


Many folks adopting an older cat also don’t realize that their choice is the kindest thing for a second cat. It’s kind for the cat you take home with you, but by picking that cat in the shelter that has been left there for too long, you free up a space for another cat to enter the shelter and repeat that journey. So, you're being kind to the older cat you pick, kind to the next cat who now gets a chance to be adopted and you’re also being kind to yourself by having a cat who’s going to tune into your life way easier than a kitten.


Ultimately you'll know what type of cat works for you and what type of cat doesn't. As I said in the beginning, if you're interested in a young kitten (maybe for your kids to grow up with), that's perfectly fine. Kittens are a great joy to be around, and the more cats that are adopted in the world, the better.


However, for all the joy kittens offer, they are also a serious handful. Older cats can be just as loving and a joy to be around while also being more mature and receptive to what you're looking for in a pet. My family and I have taken on both kittens and older cats alike, and I can say that, in terms of having a relaxing friend that doesn't cause too much fuss, my older cat wins every time.


About the Author

Dexter Jones is the head of content at We Love Cats and Kittens. He has been a solid member of the ‘Mad Cat Dad’ club since time began! Dexter has been a keen cat writer for many years and lives in Croatia with his two tabby cats, Milly & Marly, who also flew in from the UK to start their new Adriatic island life together.