Am I Too Old to Adopt a New Cat?

Q: I’m alone and somewhat lonely, especially since Phoebe, my cat of 16 years, passed away a month ago. I miss her terribly. I have no children, just a couple of nieces I rarely see. My husband passed away a decade ago. I’m 83, but in good health. Is it right for me to adopt a cat at my age? I asked my veterinarian, but he said it was my decision. I would be happy to accept an older cat, because I realize it’s unlikely I would outlive a kitten. I wouldn’t want my new cat to fall on bad times because I passed away. Elizabeth, do you think I would be allowed to adopt?

A: I can imagine how lonely you are! People think we cats enjoy being alone, but we really don’t. We all want a good human companion.

Without question, I think you should adopt another cat. The fact that you are happy to accept an older cat is even more wonderful, as sometimes they are the most difficult to place. While you might be giving up that adorable kitten play, you will be getting wisdom and maturity—two attributes I believe are very important (ahem).

As you are aware, some people will oppose you adopting a pet because of your age. However, I strongly disagree with them. Growing older is no easy game and having a cat to help you through has many benefits, for both you and the cat. Research has proven that pets lower stress and blood pressure. One study even showed that cat owners have a 33 percent lower risk of having a heart attack. Plus, I don’t think you can find a more loving companion than a cat. Loneliness is a horrible thing for human and feline.

Shelters do want to ensure they’re placing cats in good forever homes, so they may have some requirements. Of course, you will have to show that you are mentally, physically, and financially able to take proper care of your cat, including food and veterinary care. A letter from Phoebe’s veterinarian might be helpful.

The shelter may want to know if you can drive to get food and care or if you have someone who is ready to help you with these tasks on a regular basis. Please don’t take offense at their questions; remember that they are interested in the welfare of the cat you adopt.

You may be asked to show that if something happens to you—whether it’s your time to pass or a temporary incapacitating illness—there is someone who will take your cat and care for her. The staff may require an in-home visit and/or statement from the person who will be your backup.

As long as you have a contingency plan—whether a legal pet trust, which is available in some states, or a friend who will promise the shelter he or she will step in for you—you likely will not have any trouble adopting a cat. The shelter staff already knows the cats they have available, and they will interview you to help narrow down your choices to find your new feline friend.

While these requirements may seem intrusive or unnecessary, the shelter wants to be absolutely certain the cat doesn’t end up back in the shelter— or worse, injured or killed—because they made a bad decision. This doesn’t sound like you at all; I just want you aware of what you may face.

Maybe you’ll meet a cat who recently lost her owner, just as you lost Phoebe, and the two of you will quickly bond. I am especially partial to our article this month on rehoming a cat. We miss our owners terribly when something happens, but finding a new loving home helps us adjust quickly.

—Best regards, Elizabeth