Adopting an Older Cat

How adopting an older cat changed one couple’s life.

Tara and her husband were sure they didn't want any kind of responsibility. But Sheppy, a tubby, elderly tortoiseshell with a stump for a tail had very different ideas for them...

Sheppy, older cat and her owner

Once upon a time there was a young couple, who were adamant that they didn't want kids or dogs or cats, or anything that involved responsibility. They said they were happy with their lives of going to work, to the gym, drinking wine and seeing family and friends. But one tubby, elderly tortoiseshell with a stump for a tail had different ideas for them....

That young couple was me and my husband 15 years ago. We are now fully-subscribed crazy cat people. I wanted to share Sheppy's story in the hope that it encourages people to consider adopting an older cat.

sheppy cat relaxing in the gardenAn older cat can be calmly confident and know exactly what they want

In summer 2005 we noticed the appearance of this round tortoiseshell cat without a tail. She would come up to me and my husband as we left or came back to the house, purring a lot and wanting attention, so we made a fuss of her. We were hesitant at first, as we weren't sure of the required cat-etiquette but we had never encountered such a determined little creature. Her elderly owner - a neighbour of ours, indulgently told us her name was Sheppy and she visited the whole street. She just had that much love to give.

We both had fairly unsatisfying jobs at that time and we came to look forward to her comforting presence as she popped in for her post-work visit.

Older cats can find themselves suddenly homeless

One day, we found out her elderly owner was going into a care home. We had grown very fond of Sheppy and her visits over 3 years, so we asked if we could adopt her to save her going into rescue. Sheppy was 14.

An older cat can be a calming presence in a home

In our house, Sheppy was a little stressed at first due the change of scenery and required some comforting at night. But, within three days she was back to her chilled and affectionate self; climbing onto our laps with alacrity and settling in for a snooze while we watched TV. She was such an easy cat to have in our lives and she made it very easy to love her. Just purrs and head rubs in exchange for a warm lap and food.

We had her in our lives for another four and a half years after adopting her. In that time the love she brought into our lives was immeasurable. We would laugh when she rolled on her back for a belly rub, when she 'helped' us wrap up presents - yes even older cats like to have fun.... (followed by a power-nap of course!) She was just so cute too, that furry little face following me around while I was doing housework, big eyes imploring that I stop for a few moments and give her a cuddle. She was happy to sleep most of the day, peer out of the window or even go for a bimble in the garden while we were at work. At 14 we introduced her to a cat flap which she took to with competency!

sheppy cat cuddled up on a lapA bittersweet ending

In February 2011, at the age of 18 and a half years old, Sheppy went to sleep on my lap, purring until the end. We cried oceans, but underneath it we felt so blessed to have her in our lives. It was satisfying too, knowing she had spent her senior years in warmth and love with us – and didn't have to go from her first home into a shelter at 14.

Sheppy's legacy

Sheppy had converted us into cat people, so a few months later we adopted a pair of young cats whose first owners had developed an allergy. While our lively new furry companions were bouncing off the walls as we were trying to relax and watch telly, I used to think wistfully of gentle Sheppy curled up purring! Those kittens are now eight and a half years old and I love them more and more each day. They are magnificent cats with quirky personalities and still very very lively.

Cats live longer and longer when well cared for

So please consider this, when you are ready to adopt, older cats make amazing pets and are full of character. Sheppy had been overweight all her life which caused arthritis and the pain relief medication put a strain on her kidneys after a while. I have no doubt that had she been a healthier weight all her life, she would have lived on into her twenties.

Please visit Cat Chat's 'Adopt an Older Cat' page for advice and please visit the 'Cats needing Homes' section to see cats available for adoption near you.

Contributor: Tara Lambert
Published: February 2020

Further Information
Top 10 Reasons to  Adopt an Older Cat 
Cats Needing Homes Near You: Cats needing Homes