The Scratching Post is a weekly newsletter from pets columnist Kate Karp, bringing you all the latest news on pet adoptions, animal welfare and ways to get involved.

Merrilee Adler had Rita Hayworth for only five years. “She enriched our lives in so many ways that it seems like 12 years,” Adler said. Photo courtesy of Merrilee Adler.

Adopt a Senior Pet Month

Over the freeway and down the ramp . . . We’re not heading to Grandmother’s house — we’re hitting the shelters and rescues to bring Grandma home with us. We’ll pick up Grandpa, too.

November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, a great opportunity for nudging people to adopt an older cat, dog or rabbit instead of a young one. Kittens and puppies appeal to the cuteness factor while many seniors fade into the shadows, at risk of ending their lives prematurely in a shelter.

Owners surrender their elderly pets for relatively benign reasons, such as being too ill to care for them, or some (particularly heartless) owners have traded in the old model for a young one. Almost too coldhearted to believe, but it happens.

“So many animals have experienced the loss of their family or [suffered] abuse, neglect, life on the streets,” shelter volunteer Susan Peszat said. “To have lived a lifetime of neglect or to find yourself in a cage abandoned by your family of 10-plus years, surrounded by noise and fear and not understanding why they’re there — their stories are truly tragic.”

Adopting one of these seniors instead of a young one can be preferable for some people.

“Seniors are typically less demanding, require less exercise, many already have basic training and appropriate house manners, and you can truly sense their intense appreciation for saving them,” Peszat said.

There may be additional medical bills with seniors, but pets of any age can become ill. If you’re willing and able to handle the issues, good. In sickness or in health, you know.

“We adopted our wonderful Georgia girl from the shelter about two and a half years ago,” Jennifer Beaver said. “She arrived there from a hoarding situation and weighed about 5 pounds; and she was between 10 and 12 years old. I had been praying for a snuggle cat, and when I saw her in a video with volunteer extraordinaire Susan, I fell in love and got Georgia from the shelter the next day. A few months later, she got quite sick with pancreatitis and was nursed back to health. She’s now a healthy 8 pounds and snuggles morning and night. I love her with all my heart and tell her so every day.”

Pam Rainsdon bonded with an abused 13-year-old Shiba Inu who changed her life for the better and left her with a heavy heart and a lot of sorrow when she died a few years later. She wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

“Best decision ever, and best friend I’ve ever had,” Rainsdon said.

You’re never ready for goodbye with any pet. For seniors, though, goodbye will be said with the knowledge that an overlooked pet has spent their remaining years in love and comfort instead of in a shelter with an uncertain future.

“We have hospice-fostered senior dogs,” Nadith Werth said. “Although it hurt when they left us, it was our honor to be there for them in their final days. Don’t be afraid of being sad when the time comes to say goodbye. The joy and love you experience while caring for them, knowing you are giving them the dignity they deserve, outweighs that sadness.”

Pets to adopt or foster

I hope you’re convinced. If so, Julie Buzby, DVM, has compiled a list of points for taking care of an older dog. Several apply to cats.

Dr. Buzby writes that a senior should get a veterinary exam at least twice a year to detect any hidden issues and to eat a healthy, veterinarian-approved diet. You can read Dr. Buzby’s suggestions in their entirety here.

Below are some of the seniors from the city’s shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, at the entrance to El Dorado Park. No parking fee for shelter visitors. To adopt or foster any of them, email [email protected] or [email protected], or call 562-570-4925. Even better, stop by during walk-in hours every Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

Smokey (left) and Missy (right). Photo courtesy of LBACS.

This senior comes with his own caregiver: Smokey (ID #A487310) and Missy (ID #A710081) Smokey is a senior 13-year-old Labrador retriever who has a light mobility issue and a health condition. Missy is 7 years old and in better shape than Smokey, with whom she’s completely bonded. Do you have room in your home and heart?

Lady Gata. Photo courtesy of LBACS.

There aren’t a million reasons why you could fall in stupid love with Lady Gata (ID#A707857). There’s just one: the Lady herself. Lady Gata is 14 years old, and she’s a love. She needs a quiet, probably adult-only home. She won’t take up much space in the house, but this quiet girl will fill your heart.

Francis. Photo courtesy of LBACS.

Who doesn’t love a brown tabby? At 7 years old, Frances (ID#A706592) is considered a senior, but she’s actually a playful, middle-aged girl who’s curious about everything and eager to explore your house. She’ll make a wonderful companion.

Pet events and announcements

Little Lion Foundation’s Whiskers in Wonderland and online auction

Deck the paws with auction goodies and benefits that the kittens and cats of The Little Lion Foundation will get from the bids for them. Little Lion’s twinkly holiday festival and fundraiser will feature hors d’oeuvres, drinks, duffy boat rides, audiences with the kittens themselves and a bounty of glorious auction prizes to bid on. Every penny helps the cats in the rescue. Items can be picked up at the event or scheduled at the foundation’s headquarters afterward. Purchase tickets and boat rides here, and post your bids on the auction here, starting Dec. 1.

Sunday, Dec. 10, 4 to 7 p.m., Boathouse on the Bay, 190 North Marina Dr., Long Beach, event $65, duffy boat ride $25. Online auction begins Dec. 1.

CAMP mobile vaccine clinics

CAMP (Community Animal Medicine Project) hosts low-cost vaccine clinics in Los Angeles and San Pedro. Keeping your pet current on their shots is essential for preventing contagious diseases such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia, and CAMP makes the vaccines easier on the wallet. The clinic schedule is available here. While you’re there, ask the technicians about CAMP’s low-cost spay/neuter prices, which help prevent the birth of unwanted animals and shelter overpopulation.

To see a list of local animal rescue groups, click here.