How difficult is it for senior animals to get adopted?

Ayla Soriano Martín on 31/03/2021

Intuitively, we expect that families favor younger rather than elder animals when adopting, but it is true? Is it really so difficult for a senior animal to get adopted? Unfortunately, the answer is “yes”. In order to get a more accurate picture of the situation, we looked into real historical data from several shelters and studied the adoptions for the last 10 years. For a fair comparison, this dataset includes only the animals that at the end had the luck to be adopted.

Adoption of cats

We looked into the distribution of the age of the cats at the moment of their adoption. It is clear that cat adoptions are dominated by kittens, actually more than 40% of the adopted cats are less than 1 years old.

This fact is related to the nature of the felines. It is very common for older cats that have been in the street or in a colony for a long time, to feel more comfortable in that environment. Unfortunately, they did not have the luck to enjoy the warmth of a home and the love of a dedicated family and therefore have difficulties adapting. The younger a cat is, the easier it is for it to adapt to a home environment and the family life.

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If we look into the time it takes for a cat to get adopted, we can see that increases significantly with the age of the cat. Kittens that are less than 1 year old, get adopted practically immediately, the spend less than 2 months in the shelter. This time doubles for a cat that is between 2 and 3 years old and is 10 times longer for a cat that between 9 and 10 years old.

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This shows the clear preference adopters have for younger cats. The younger they are, the earlier they find their permanent home.

Adoption of dogs

For dogs, there is also a tendency towards younger animals but it is not so pronounced. The percentage of the adopted dogs that are puppies (less than 1 year old) is 21% compared to 42% for kittens. As for the elder animals, in all cases, the percentage of dogs of a specific age that are adopted is always higher than the corresponding percentage for cats. For example, 14% of the adopted dogs are at least 7 years old whereas this number is just 8% for cats.

There are mainly two reasons that favor the adoption of senior dogs compared to senior cats. At least in Spain, where most of our data come from, there are very few dogs in the street, the vast majority are either with their family or in a shelter. This makes the transition from a shelter towards living with a family much easier and natural for elder dogs than for elder cats.

The second reason is related to the profile of the adopters. Puppies typically have a lot of energy and are not the best fit for senior families. For them, an elder dog fits better with their lifestyle and their day-to-day activities. Although not always the case, there is a tendency for elder dogs to be adopted by senior families. This factor does not apply for cats as they are way more independent and self-sufficient.

As for the time a dog passes in the shelter until it gets adopted, the scenario is very similar to cats; the older an animal is, the more time it takes for it to get adopted. Puppies on average spend less than a month in the shelter, which shows the clear preference of the adopters for dogs of younger age. Comparing the dog with the cat adoptions, the analysis clearly shows that the situation is favorable for dogs; that is, it takes less time for a dog to get adopted compared to a cat of the same age.

Conclusion

Although the preference towards adopting younger animals is understandable, we should not give up. We should keep trying to adopt elder ones, they need it and they deserve it as much as kittens and puppies.

Source of the data

11pets: Adopt is the most complete platform available today for the management of animal welfare organizations and is used by more than 100 shelters from all over the world. The data presented in this report come from the actual operation of the shelters that are using the platform and participated in this study. This is why the give a so accurate picture of the reality. The data regard the adoptions made in the last 10 years from different European shelters, mainly in Spain and more specifically in Catalonia.


You can use information from this report only for personal purposes and by including the corresponding citation to the 11pets.com site. For the use of the data for implicit or explicit commercial purposes, it is necessary to previously obtain the written consent of 11 PETS LTD.