14 March 2024

Want a mate who's more interested in napping than jogging? Check out the RSPCA's senior pets

| Zoe Cartwright
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Grey muzzles mean more snoozes and cuddles - that's why the RSPCA started their 'Seniors for Seniors' program.

Grey muzzles mean more snoozes and cuddles – that’s why the RSPCA started their ‘Seniors for Seniors’ program. Photo: Zoe Cartwright.

We all want to be loved, we all want a home and we all want a second chance if we need one – and that doesn’t change if you’re a senior (or a dog).

In conjunction with the NSW Senior’s Festival, the RSPCA is encouraging older people to consider opening their hearts and homes to an older pet.

Gifts in Wills manager Helen Trussler said senior pets and people had a lot to offer each other.

“We know pet ownership helps to improve cardiovascular health, combat depression and loneliness and give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” she said.

“We speak to a lot of elderly people who have had animals all their life and feel they can’t keep up with a pet any longer – but with all the health benefits, it’s the most important time to own a pet.

“For seniors in particular it’s so much easier to handle a dog that’s already got a few tricks under its sleeve, is a bit lower energy and gives them that routine, company and sense of purpose.

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“You don’t have to go to puppy school, they’re already toilet trained and house trained, and still have lots of personality.

“They’re normally very gentle and have slowed down a little, so they’re less likely to have accidents once they’re a little more sedate and sensible.

“They just want a couch or a lap or a warm fire to lay next to. Their pace on walks is slower, they don’t need to go so far, they’re happy for a play in the park and then home again.

“Their personality is formed already, you don’t have to wonder what’s coming.”

The RSPCA launched their ‘Seniors for Seniors’ initiative a few years ago.

The partnership with the NSW Government offers seniors card holders a 50 per cent discount on adopting pets aged eight and up.

“Lots of people struggle with the cost of a pet, regardless of where they come from, and this encourages people to take on senior pets that often get left behind in the shelters,” Helen said.

“They can retire gracefully together – it’s a beautiful mutual discount.”

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Helen said many seniors also worried about the cost of vet bills, and what would happen to their pet if they ended up in hospital or could no longer care for them.

The RSPCA is two steps ahead there, too.

As part of the Seniors for Seniors program, owners can get 10 per cent off at RSPCA vet clinics to help manage the cost of keeping their pet healthy.

The RSPCA also offers support for older pet owners who need someone to care for their pet while they are in hospital, and another program called ‘Home Ever After’ to cater for pet owners who worry about what might happen to their furry friend if they predecease them, or go into palliative care.

“We really try to keep animals with their human for as long as possible,” Helen said.

“To give people that security and peace of mind that there is a plan in place if anything should happen, it’s a win-win for animals and people.

“We know it’s better for animals to be in a loving home than in a shelter, and we know it’s good for people to have pets.”

All senior pets come with a full vet check and behavioural assessment, so any health issues they have can be dealt with before they are adopted out, and their new family can be fully informed of any ongoing health needs.

RSPCA vets are able to provide estimates of expected health bills, so they can be budgeted for well ahead of time.

In terms of less tangible benefits, Helen said older animals especially appreciated being given a second chance at life.

“We’ve had some great stories come back from seniors who say it’s the best thing they ever did and are so glad they took the leap of faith,” she said.

“To offer a home to an animal that might be looking at a long time in a shelter, that is such a beautiful gesture and a big reflection on the person.

“Animals are intuitive, they just want to be loved and they know you saved them. They know.”

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