HAWS Senior Pets Need a Home for the Holidays

December 14, 2023
Photo by Tracy Shilobrit Old Smokey is outgoing, snuggly and ready for you to take him home.

If you’re feeling a little lonely this holiday season and there’s room in your heart and home for a furry friend, consider adopting a senior pet from the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS). Senior animals can be a great option for most homes but are an especially good fit for: 

  • Individuals and families who have prior experience with the same type of pet and know how to train and care for them. 
  • Anyone who wants a pet but doesn’t want to go through the kitten/puppy crazies. 
  • Senior citizens who want a calmer pet and would prefer an older animal that is less likely to outlive them.
  • Singles or couples with relatively calm homes where a senior pet can feel safe and loved. 
  • Pet lovers who have an affinity for helping the under-dog (or cat or rabbit) who needs them the most.

According to experts, the advantages of adopting older pets are that they tend to be pre-trained and trainable, calmer and less destructive, potty trained and very loving because they know and miss the love they once had. Of course, there are always exceptions to these characteristics, especially if the animal has experienced trauma. However, HAWS offers free consultations with its behavioral specialists when you adopt to help you and your pet adjust and work through any behavior issues, increasing your likelihood of overcoming any challenges you may have. 

When we stopped in today, HAWS had two senior dogs, four senior cats and a senior rabbit available for loving homes, and all of them would be thrilled to go to their new forever home for the holidays. We were excited to learn that two bonded senior cats, who had been at HAWS the longest, were just adopted yesterday. Here are the stories of the seniors at HAWS who most need a home for the holidays this year:

Old Smokey

Old Smokey, a beautiful gray cat with striking green eyes, seemed the most eager for human love. He is super friendly and snuggly and would make a great lap cat for a lucky person or family. At 12 years old, he is the most senior pet currently available, but as any cat person knows, they can live 20+ years, so he could be a great family addition for years to come. We’re told that he loves to bask in the sun, so he would love a spot by a big window or patio door to enjoy his daily dose of sunshine. If you’re quiet and mellow like Old Smokey, you might be a perfect pair.


Laney is an 11-year-old gray and white cat who appears shy and stressed in her shelter setting, where she was curled up, trying to hide in the safest spot in her cage during our visit. She was taken to HAWS a few weeks ago after her owner passed away, which had to be incredibly traumatic for her. This sweet baby needs a loving home where she can feel safe again and learn to love her new best friend or family. If you’ve lost a pet or a person this year, you and Laney could be a perfect fit as you both learn to love again.


Daisy is a 45-lb. mixed-breed dog who is about to celebrate her 11th birthday. She came to HAWS as a stray, and she appears eager to get out of the shelter and go home with someone she can love and trust again. We’re told that she is sweet and gentle, and her soulful eyes tell the story of a dog who deserves a kinder, gentler life in a loving home.


Autumn is a lovely 9-year-old calico cat who was surrendered by an owner who could no longer care for her. She is shy, but we’re told her gentle and calm personality comes out with a little patience and kindness. Her teddy bear is her favorite toy and solace in the noisy HAWS environment, and it will definitely go with her when she finds her forever home. A quiet home with a kind and patient person is likely the best fit for Autumn to settle in and find love again.

Hungry Jack

Hungry Jack is an adorable 8-year-old hound mix who is currently thriving with a foster family. He is great on a leash for his two walks per day and is friendly out in public, which would be a real plus for someone who is looking to meet new people. He shares his foster home with a cat, and they co-exist very well. HAWS tells us he will need to go to a home that can give him the mental and physical exercise that he needs.


Giddy is a gorgeous 8-year-old tabby cat who is declawed in the front paws. He was surrendered to HAWS in early December when his owner could not care for him. In our visit, he seemed a little shy but we suspect he’s likely to warm up quickly when he establishes trust with his new person or family. We’re told he has a mellow personality and is looking for a new person or family that he can love and grow old with.


Ruby, the Florida White rabbit, is 7 years old and was surrendered to HAWS by her former family in late October. She would really love a home of her own for the holidays. She appeared calm and content in her exercise pen, and HAWS recommends the roomy, inexpensive pen as a great option to care for Ruby.

What to Expect When Adopting a Senior Pet

HAWS provides veterinarian treatment while the animals are in their care, and a medical and behavior summary is provided at the time of adoption, as well as any recommendations for the type of toys and treats your new pet loves the most.

Sophia Nijef, the Canine Task Force Lead with the HAWS behavioral team said, “For example, if a dog is super-destructive with soft toys or we’ve caught her trying to swallow it, we will tell them to make sure they are providing hard toys. We have a selection in our lobby and will recommend appropriate toys that are durable or offer mental enrichment.”

HAWS also provides a packet of information that includes guidance on how to make the transition with your specific type of pet, how to reach the behavior team for your free consultations and a list of training and behavior classes they offer. The packet also includes recommended pet insurance and helpful flyers regarding your pet’s veterinary care and food recommendations. And, yes, the training and behavior information and classes are for cats too – they are trainable, despite their reputations to the contrary. 

A new pet of any age requires a period of adjustment, and for senior pets who have been in a shelter, HAWS recommends planning for about two weeks to help your new furry friend adjust and let its personality come out to you. 

Nijef said, “It’s not unusual for an animal to sleep a lot in the first week because it’s been a while since they have been able to sleep quietly without the shelter noise.” She recommends that you avoid taking your dog out to a pet shop, groomer or other public place right after you adopt it because it’s a sensory overload. “Take him straight home and give him the chance to catch up on sleep, decompress and let his central nervous system come down. Their hormone levels and cortisol, for example, will take time biologically to come down.”

It’s also not unusual for the pet to either overeat or not eat much at all the first few days as they are adjusting. HAWS recommends creating a quiet, safe space for a cat or dog to consider its home base. It should be safe, but not solitary confinement, which will remind them of their time in the shelter. 

HAWS also cautions potential adopters to make sure they can afford a new pet, especially a senior animal who may need special food or medical treatment. Cost is one reason that some people surrender their pets, and you wouldn’t want to return your pet to a shelter and re-traumatize him. There’s always a chance – as with a pet of any age – that an accident or illness will bring unexpected expenses. You may want to invest in pet insurance if this is a concern. 

Can You Commit to a Senior Pet?

Senior animals are so often overlooked in shelters because people tend to focus on the younger, cuter animals. But those younger pets are a LOT more work for the first few years, which is why many older adults decide against adopting altogether. But if you are an animal lover and perhaps you are a bit older yourself, a senior pet might be exactly what you need. Consider making an older pet’s spirits a little brighter this holiday season by taking him or her home for the holidays.