10 tips on adopting the right cat or dog
Ready to add a new member to your family—one that has four legs and fur? A lot of people are confused about the adoption process. Those who visit local animal shelters or rescue groups aren’t always sure about what to expect. Sherry Woodard, animal behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Society, shares her insights on how to adopt your new best friend.
1. Bring the whole family.
Families come to Best Friends Animal Society often to find their next nonhuman family member. An adoption specialist meets with them, and helps them to narrow down their interests. The discussion includes lifestyle, time the family can offer for daily interaction, and daily care of the pet. Whether you adopt at Best Friends or at a local shelter or rescue, every member of the household should be present.
2. Do your homework.
Most animal shelters and rescue groups have online photos and information about the pets in their care. Go online and read about the pets to find the one that’s right for you. You can narrow your search down by entering the type of pet and age range you are considering. Ask yourself and your family if you want a dog or a cat. Many people think that cats need less care; that isn’t true. Cats need interaction. You should also know that puppies require the most work. They need to be socialized.
3. Narrow your search online.
After narrowing your selection down to a few cats or dogs online, call the shelter and make an appointment. At the shelter, visit their meet-and-greet room. If the shelter doesn’t have one, look for a quiet area. You can walk dogs and watch them outside the shelter setting. For cats, try to find a quiet place at the shelter to interact with them.
If the shelter isn’t equipped to answer your questions about the pets in their care, or if they don’t have a place for you to interact with the dog or cat, ask them which fosters/rescue groups pull animals from them. Often rescue groups will get their dogs and cats from high kill shelters. The people who volunteer at most foster/rescue groups know something about the cats and dogs they are watching.
4. Consider fostering.
Often dogs and cats in shelters are under a lot of stress. Their true personalities may not shine in a shelter. Fostering gives you a good glimpse into the pet’s personality.
5. Puppies don’t always have great manners.
Puppies and kittens have lots of energy and won’t have social skills yet. Senior pets have all the skills and manners already practiced. Consider adopting an older cat or dog.
6. Consider active or sedate pets depending on your personality.
Do you like to play sports or is your idea of a good time watching a movie at home? Remember, not all dogs like to jog or run. And cats need exercise. You can do some research ahead of time by reading about specific breeds and their energy levels. (For instance, Great Danes need exercise, but they often think of themselves as lap dogs!)
7. You can find purebreds if you’d prefer.
Visit a breed-specific rescue. You can find rescues for most dog breeds—from golden retrievers to Siberian huskies. Siamese, Persians, and other cat rescue groups can be found online.
8. Get the kids involved.
Purchase a dog or cat care book, watch online videos about cat or dog care, visit a friend with a cat or dog to get your child used to the idea of getting a family pet, or volunteer with your child at your local shelter or rescue. Talk to your children about expectations and responsibilities. Never leave children alone with pets, for their own safety and for the safety of the pets.
9. Take time to decide.
If one child wants one pet and his sibling wants another, it all comes down to which pet is the best match for the entire family. Best Friends offers outings and sleepovers that help families decide which pet is right for them. Most shelters and rescues don’t offer this service. So, it is good to foster. You can visit the shelter a few times to see how well everyone in your household bonds with the potential pet. You also don’t have to decide right away, and ultimately, parents should be the ones choosing.
10. Adoption is cheaper than the pet store.
Adoption fees often include spay/neuter and vaccines, though if the pet is too young, you will have to pay for spay/neuter services. Some shelters offer low cost spay/neuter certificates. It’s important to remember that even if your pet was free, he won’t stay free. There are annual veterinary visits, food, toys, leashes for dogs and a litter box for cats. You also might want to hire a dog trainer. All of that said, adoption fees are considerably lower than purchasing from a breeder or puppy mill/pet store. By adopting, you are not only enriching the life of your new pet, you are also enriching the lives of yourself and your family.
Michele C. Hollow writes about pets, pet care, and wildlife here and at Pet News and Views. She and her family adopted two kittens from a local animal shelter last December.