The above three were left on the shelf at Cats Protection Norwich, England.
The Internet doesn’t really tell us why people don’t like older cats who are being fostered or who are in rescue facilities. So what is happening?
I don’t think people in general dislike older people but they probably see older people as somewhat redundant and past their sell-by-date. Their time is up; they are grumpy and in that regard older cats can be a little bit like people. They’re not fresh and full of life. If a person is adopting a new cat they want just that; a new cat, meaning a young cat and not “second-hand”. There is a significant section of society obsessed with the concept of “new” and fresh. Perhaps they think that a new cat is less likely to carry disease (wrong) or less likely to be psychologically damaged (wrong)? They want a fresh slate, a new mind to fit in with their lifestyle.
However, I believe that a lot of people have misconceptions about older cats. I also believe that people have a lot of misconceptions about young cats and kittens. Kittens are cute and people like the baby-like appearance of kittens but they tend to forget about the extra caretaking required to do a good job in raising a kitten. They get into more difficult situations. They can cause more damage in the home, for example.
By contrast, older cats are generally easier to look after. They will be resting and sleeping more than a young cat. While a cat is resting and sleeping they don’t require any maintenance whatsoever but their presence is still there and their presence is felt so they are still a benefit to the home.
Older cats know the ropes. They are less excitable and will probably settle into a new home more easily but, of course, it does depend upon the individual and his character.
A practical but rather difficult to describe benefit of the older cat is that they will die within the next 5 years or so. That sounds horrible but if an adopter is also elderly then it is a practical and useful point to make.
It is difficult going through the traumatic process of caring for a dying cat and then quite possibly having to euthanise your cat at the end of the emotional turmoil of seeing him becoming more and more ill. And then the grieving follows his passing.
That leaves one with the question over whether you are going to adopt another cat but if you are elderly there is a possibility that after your elderly cat has died you will then call it a day on caring for a domestic cat. The timing is better. Or the caretaker will die before the cat. From the person’s perspective that avoids all the pain of a cat’s passing. Of course, it leaves an even more elderly cat without a caretaker but that isn’t relevant to this article.
A major downside which is foreseen by adopters is that older cats will fairly soon be elderly whereupon they are liable to require more veterinary care with associated expense. I wonder if some people adopt young cats and then relinquish them when they are old to avoid those vet bills.
Some older cats are left on the shelf for the very long time with foster carers or at rescue centres. An example was at the Norwich branch of Cats Protection in 2012 when there were three cats who were described as older cats and who had variously been with foster carers for about 6 months.
Their ages varied between six and ten. A 6-year-old cat is not an older cat in my opinion and a 10-year-old cat has, potentially, a good eight more years left of his life and more.
So, it seems that it isn’t just older cats that are less attractive to adopters but middle-aged cats as well. This indicates that people prefer to focus on kittens. Any cat younger than six, or perhaps the younger the better, is a first choice.
All three of the cats at the Norwich branch of Cats Protection were black-and-white cats. And there I think lies a major problem.
It is not just about the age of the cat but their coat (i.e. their appearance). Black-and-white cats with a pattern that is not interesting are less desirable than tabby cats with an interesting pattern or calico cats (which have a very interesting tricolour pattern). The black-and-white cat is one up from the all black cat.
The conclusion that I can make is that people select cats from cat rescue centres much as they do cars at a car showroom. They prefer the squeaky new and the sleek new colours and the new models and low maintenance 😉 !
People’s preferences regarding adopting a rescue cat are very much like their preferences at buying any other object. However, I am generalising because a lot of people don’t think that way but it would seem, based upon the Norwich branch of Cats Protection that, in general, people do think that way which is unfortunate and rather sad.
I would hope people would open their minds to the possibility of owning an older cat while focusing on the key attraction of caring for any cat: the relationship and the cat’s character.