8 Things You Should Know before Adopting a Pet

November 16, 2015

Adopting a dog or cat is not a decision to take lightly.  There are many factors to consider before you bring that new fur baby home.  Here are a few to consider:

  1. Is your timing right?  Will someone be home with the new pet for the first 2-3 weeks while it adjusts to a new life? Do you have time to spend with the animal? It would be cruel to bring a new dog or cat home and then leave right away on a trip. The poor creature won’t understand if he is placed in a boarding situation when he didn’t even have time to adjust to his new environment. Be sure your family is on board with this decision to add to the family. Know ahead of time who will walk and feed the new dog or who will change the litter box every day.
  2. Does your budget allow for the expenses of a new pet?  There will be initial veterinary fees, food, toys, bedding.  Allow extra funds for unexpected expenses.
  3. Know before you go what type of pet you want.  Discuss with your family whether a puppy or adult dog would fit best in your household.  Have you thought about the time and effort it takes to house train a puppy? An adult dog, as long as you know its temperament, might fit more easily and quickly into your lifestyle. Better yet, consider adopting a senior dog.  So many enter shelters, never to leave because people pass them by.  Yet a senior dog can be the most loving companion of all.  Do your homework and know what you want before you visit a shelter.
  4. Will your new pet truly become a valued member of your family?  Dogs are companion animals and need their people close by. If you plan to place your dog in the back yard to live, eat and entertain itself, please don’t get one. It isn’t fair to the animal to condemn it to a life of solitude.  The same is true for cats.  Cats that live completely indoors live longer than cats that are allowed to roam.  If you want your cat to bond with you and/or your family, treat her with love and compassion.  Yes, cats are independent creatures.  One of my cats often cries at the front door to be let out, but she has never been allowed outside.  There are too many dangers in the world for little felines.  Know before you adopt that your new pet will be treated like family.
  5. What size dog do you want?  If you have small children, a large exuberant animal might be too much for them.  If you want a lap dog, a Great Dane might not be the right choice. If a large dog is your choice, think about the space it needs.  Do you have a fenced yard?  If not, are you prepared to walk it several times a day on a leash?  Most communities do now allow free-roaming dogs.
  6. Think about temperament before you adopt.  Small dogs can be snappy if they feel threatened.  Be sure to choose the right temperament in a pet for your home environment.  While some small dogs enjoy children, others do not.  If you adopt from a reputable shelter, they have probably conducted temperament tests on the pets you see.  Always ask.
  7. Do you know the best places to adopt a dog or cat?  Hint:  It’s not from your neighborhood backyard breeder.  Can you recognize a puppy mill? Do you know which retail stores sell pets from puppy mills?  We took our Maggie, a so-called Miniature English Bulldog, as a foster in 2008.  After observing her weird personality traits and dealing with almost 5 months of trying to housebreak this 8-month-old pup, I realized that there was something kinky about her genetic makeup.  Research showed me that she very likely originated at a puppy mill in another state. The people who bought her probably didn’t know this as they paid a small fortune for this girl.  Puppy mills animals often have genetic malformations or illnesses and many don’t live very long.  Certain retail pet stores (like Petland) obtain the pets they sell from brokers who get the animals from puppy mills where the dogs are raised in horrific conditions.  Please don’t buy from these stores.  Instead, find your new best friend, whether canine or feline, from a reputable animal shelter.  Visit the shelter and take notice of the cleanliness of the place. Ask questions of others for  references on a shelter you are considering.  Visit the adoption events at local businesses (like PetSmart) and talk to the volunteers and staff who are handling the animals.  And be sure to ask a lot of questions about the animal you are considering.  Many shelters require the dog or cat to be examined by a veterinarian before they place them for adoption.  That is a good rule to follow. You’ll know your  new pet is most likely to be healthy before you take it home.
  8. Be sure to allow for an adjustment period for your new pet.  Your new dog or cat will be nervous and possibly afraid when it first arrives at your home.  Expect this and allow for accidents and less than stellar behavior.  If you are adopting a puppy or kitten, ask for advice about housebreaking your pet so you start him off the correct way.

Go the extra mile to be sure your new dog or cat will be exactly the pet you want.  This will be a companion who will love you for all of its life.  Can you promise to do the same?  If not, please don’t get a pet.  If you aren’t sure about the adoption process or even if you really want to commit to a pet, try fostering one for a shelter.  Dog and cat fosters are in high demand and it will be a perfect opportunity for you to try out pet ownership without a long-term commitment.

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