“My face may be gray, but my heart is pure gold. There is no shame in growing old.”
Perhaps the single thing we can fault our beloved pets for is having lifespans so much shorter than our own. Yet today, to the joy of all owners of well-loved furry friends, pets lifespans have actually been increasing due to factors such as better preventative health measures and advances in veterinary medicine. Nationally, the average lifespan for dogs is about 11 years while cats live for about 12.1 years. , the average lifespan for dogs is up about 4 percent (or about half a year) since 2002. For cats, the average lifespan has increased an entire year, or about 10 percent, since 2002, according to the 2013 Banfield State of Pet Health Report.
But unfortunately, for many animals this extra time isn’t all that golden. Millions of animals are admitted into animal shelters annually, and most people on the hunt for the newest family member have eyes only for the young and the spirited. According to Petfinder.com, one of the largest databases for adoptable pets in the nation, the average pet will spend about 12 weeks on location before finding a loving home. For senior pets, adoption can take up to 4 times as long!
And amazingly, families who have opted to adopt mature pets will tell you that the pros outweigh the cons. Most older pets are housetrained, aren’t out to chew up every brand new pair of shoes you bring home or tear the curtains up with their claws. Instead, they offer mild temperaments, lower-energy levels than their youthful counterparts and hearts full of love.
Owning pets has been scientifically proven to promote physical and psychological well-being, and one group of people who can benefit most from this is older persons. In one study of elderly dog owners who lived alone, 75 percent of males and 67 percent of females said their dog was their only friend. Studies of elderly people have also documented that dog owners spent an average of 1.4 hours per day outside with the dog. Since regular exercise plays such a central role in physical wellbeing — including helping to avoid hip fracture and increasing cardiovascular function — the benefits of pet ownership for senior citizens are obvious.
So when you next find yourself wandering into the local animal shelter, take a good look at all the animals. There are fewer things more rewarding than making an animals last few years of life their best ones.