If your family is thinking of getting a pet, consider adopting from an animal shelter. Animal shelters are full of dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles, and more animals, all in need of loving homes. Some may come with emotional or behavioral issues, but most are happy, healthy, and ready for a loving home. To find great animals and read all about their personalities, go to Pets 911 or PetFinder. (They have rescue pets for Canada too!)
- Look it up. Research certain types of dogs, cats and other companion animals and how they normally behave. Being prepared for your shelter visit will let staff know you are serious and will help you determine which type of animal you can adopt – the fact is that some breeds are more challenging to handle than others.
- Ask yourself some questions. Before you make a serious commitment to a pet, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
Make some decisions. Think about what you want in a pet and remember that all pets have different personalities. Cats tend to be more independent and need less affection, but kittens need lots of attention. Cats don’t need to be walked, but you need to clip their nails and play with them. Dogs need to be walked at the very least twice a day, but they are usually great companions and love to spend time with their family. Puppies need training and can chew holes in clothing and other tasty treats.
Visit the shelter. Set aside at least a few hours to visit shelters in your area – remember that you may need to visit more than one shelter, or you may need to make more than one visit. Try to bring along everyone who will be living with the new pet. Ask the shelter staff lots of questions – that’s what they’re there for! And never adopt an animal because you feel sorry for it – be patient so you find a pet who is truly a good match for your family.
Get everything ready.Buy all necessary supplies and food well before the animal comes home. Make sure that the entire household is in agreement about rules and responsibilities – will the dog be allowed on the couch? Who will clean the litterbox? Put it in writing before the pet arrives, to make sure everyone agrees.
Bring your new friend home! You’ll probably be excited when your new pet arrives, but be sure to give them space and time to get adjusted to a new home and a new family. The pet may act differently once they leave the shelter – have patience and keep your house calm and quiet in the first few weeks to make him/her feel better. Interact with your pet a lot and get them used to a routine, and soon you’ll be one big happy family!
- Are you going to be moving any time soon? Moving can be hard on pets and some buildings don’t allow animals. It's best to wait until you're settled before looking for a new pet.
- Is there enough space in your current house or apartment for an animal? Certain breeds have a lot of energy and aren't suited for a small home or apartment. Make sure to learn as much about the breed of your new pet as possible.
- Will someone always be around to walk the dog or feed the cat? Pets are a lot of responsibility so make sure you can take care of your pet before you get one!
- Is anyone in your house or apartment allergic to the pet you want to get? There are treatments available for them, but make sure to talk about adopting and all your options first.
- Is this a commitment you're ready for? Dogs can live for 15 years and cats may live up to 20. Make sure your family is ready to have a pet for this long.
- Don't forget about the financial and medical responsibilities. There's the cost to spay or neuter the animal, food, supplies, toys, vet visits, etc. It can add up!