Are you thinking of adopting a pet? If so, you’ll be joining 85 million other U.S. families who enjoy the companionship of a dog, cat, fish, or other critter. However, adopting a pet isn’t as simple as heading to the nearest pet store. Here’s what you should consider before adding an animal to your family.
Finding the Right Pet
When it comes to choosing a pet, people tend to view smaller animals as lower maintenance. However, pets of all sizes require daily attention from their owners. For that reason, it’s important to choose a pet that suits your lifestyle, not just your square footage.
Ask yourself these questions before adopting a pet:
- What do I want to do with my pet? Do you want a companion for activities or something to dote on at home? If you’re considering a dog, what type of play and exercise do you enjoy?
- How much time do I have to care for a pet? All pets require regular interaction, but some need more than others. However, if you work long hours, it’s easier to hire a dog walker than to find someone to play with a rabbit or clean a birdcage.
- How many years do I want a pet? Some pets are a bigger commitment than others. The lifespan of dogs and cats approaches 20 years, and some birds could even outlive you. Consider the lifespan of your desired pet and whether you want a young animal or an older, wiser pet.
- What is my living situation? If you rent, owning a pet will limit your housing options and could cost extra money for pet fees. Violating a pet policy can lead to eviction. Landlords may be more willing to permit small caged pets over dogs and cats.
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can narrow in on the type of pet you want. Here’s what you should know about the animals you might find at your local animal shelter:
- Cats: Cats have a reputation for independence, but that doesn’t mean they want to fly solo all the time. The most well-adjusted cats are those that get regular play, affection, and training from their human owners.
- Dogs: These loyal companions can play many roles, from working animal to snuggle buddy. However, if you don’t think about breed before adopting, you could end up with a dog whose needs surpass your ability to care for it.
- Small mammals: Small mammals have the benefit of being contained, but they still need daily interaction (not to mention cage cleaning!) to be well-adjusted pets. Rabbits in particular require a lot of enrichment.
- Birds: Their high intelligence and long lifespans mean birds need experienced owners who are prepared for a lifelong commitment. A bird that doesn’t receive adequate attention could drive you crazy with screeching or even start to self-harm.
Now that you know what kind of pet is right for your family, it’s time to start searching for your new addition. Rather than heading to a pet store, browsing classified ads, or calling a breeder, consider adopting from a local animal rescue. You’ll save money and give a home to a pet in need, rather than contributing to pet overpopulation and unethical breeding practices.
Bringing Your Pet Home
Before you head to the shelter to find your new pet, you need to get your home ready. Purchase everything your pet will need, like leashes, beds, food dishes, and toys. You may want to delay buying food because switching foods suddenly can cause an upset stomach. Follow Vetstreet’s rules for changing your new pet’s diet.
Don’t forget to pet-proof. While pet-proofing looks different across species, a good rule of thumb is to protect anything that can be chewed on or eaten, like electrical cords, open trash cans, and shoes and clothing. Learn more about pet-proofing at American Humane.
Once your pet is home, be patient. Rescue animals in particular may be nervous after moving to a new home. It’s better to give your pet space until you’ve established trust rather than risk overwhelming him with attention. Set your pet up in a quiet area for the first few days and keep interaction limited, but positive.
Pet adoption is a decision to care for an animal for the remainder of its life. That’s a big commitment, so it’s worth taking time to choose the right pet for your family. If you’re unsure, consider fostering or pet-sitting for a friend before you adopt to learn more about caring for a pet.