While most cats at animal shelters are strays, occasionally an older cat is turned into a shelter by a reluctant owner forced to surrender their well-loved feline due to a change in their own circumstances.
Whether the owner is in failing health, or must move to a residence that doesn't permit pets, or just can no longer care properly for their cat, both the owner and the cat are sad to be parting. Often the cat being surrendered is an older cat.
Defined as more than 8 years old, a senior cat, like the older person, is often set in its ways and can find the experience of entering a shelter extremely traumatic.
Senior Cat Programs
While there are adopters who actually prefer an older feline due to its often mellow and laid-back attitude, because of the senior cat's age, it may take a little more time to find a perfect loving, permanent home. To address the needs of older cats, and reduce the stress of changing homes, animal shelters and humane societies are creating special foster programs for senior cats. The programs encourage people to foster a feline that is in its "golden years" in their home, thus helping the cat bypass having to stay in the shelter while it awaits a formal adoption.
Being A Foster Parent
All it takes to foster a senior cat is a little time, space and a lot of love. While the ideal situation for the foster cat is to live in a spare bedroom where it can adjust in a home-like environment, the shelter may also provide a large crate for the cat that also works well if a separate room is not available. Once the cat gets to know its foster family, it can be introduced to the rest of the home including any other pets in the household. Each foster family then takes its senior cat to an area adoption site once a week to be seen by potential adopters.
The shelter often provides senior cats with a "foster kit" which contains food, litter and a few other feline basics.
The Solano County Animal Service
It is just such a program that has been initiated by the Solano County animal shelter in northern California. In the case of Solano County, foster families take their cat to the PETCO in Vacaville on weekends. The foster family even has a say in who gets to adopt the cat..
As a further incentive to choose an older cat, the shelter offers a reduced adoption rate for mature cats. The Solano shelter only charges $35 to adopt a senior cat - and the price includes a health exam, spaying or neutering, vaccinations, a microchip, food and a DVD.
The Senior Cat Program isn't the only way animal shelters are working to reduce the county's homeless animal population. Next month, Solano County Animal Services will launch the Training Wheels program, aimed at helping people keep their pets.
Training Wheels is a national mobile outreach program that brings shelter services to pet owners, rather than waiting for people to bring their pets into the shelter, when it may be too late. Initially focusing on Vallejo, the program will do outreach with at-risk populations, helping with food, medical care and behavioral problems.
The Cinderella Program at the Humane Society also helps people keep their pets in their homes, especially when they've fallen on hard times and can't afford pet food or veterinary care. The aim is to help people keep their animals at home.