What You Need To Know Before You Adopt a Pet

If you’ve decided that you want to adopt a shelter pet, you’re about to embark on a journey that will save one life and enrich your own. Euthanasia rates at county shelters around the country are incredibly high, so you may be on the brink of adopting your new friend just in time. Call it sentimental, but there’s a certain special loyalty and gratefulness in rescued animals, as if they knew you were saving them. But before you head down to your local animal shelter to adopt a pet, check out these lesser-known facts and tips to help guide you through the process.

Choosing a Pet

You probably already know whether you want a cat or a dog, so what is the best way to go about finding your furry friend? Visiting shelters can be an extremely emotional experience, and you may end up adopting a pet that isn’t right for you simply out of sympathy. It’s important to find the animal that’s going to be the right fit for your home and family, so it’s best to do a little research before you head down to the shelter.

Many people don’t realize that county shelters now do a great job of advertising facts and histories of as many individual animals as possible, using their own websites or sites like Adopt-a-Pet.com. Online, you can peruse pictures of each animal, learn about their personalities, and even get to know such facts as whether or not they’re housebroken, get along with other animals and children or may set off your allergies. Taking the time to look at different animals online can help you narrow down your options to just a few pets that you’d like to meet in person. Also, many shelters place animals in foster homes, and these pets are only viewable online.

Bringing Your New Pet Home

It can be hard to get a true sense of an animal’s personality from visits to the shelter. Shelter pets are often scared, nervous or over-energetic due to lack of exercise. A dog that seems hyper at the shelter may actually be cool as a cucumber once it gets some regular walks, and a cat that seems extremely shy might be much more outgoing in the safety of your home. It’s a little-known fact that most shelters give you and the animal a trial period together, and will provide a refund if you aren’t a good fit. Shelters may actually request that if you have another pet at home, you bring him or her in to the shelter for a “meet and greet” with your prospective new pet.

Once you decide that you’d like to keep your rescue pet for good, be patient while it assimilates into its new environment. You should prepare yourself and your home for some mishaps while the dog or cat adjusts, especially when it’s time to leave the animal alone for the first time. Help the animal by providing lots of chew or scratch toys as an alternative to taking out their energy on your possessions, but don’t be discouraged if accidents or minor unwanted destruction occurs.

Another way to help your new friend integrate into your life is to be clear about the rules of the house from the first moment it walks through the door. It’s natural to want to coddle or pamper a new pet, allowing it to beg at the table or climb on counters or furniture because you want it to be happy. Granting a new pet these liberties will only make it more difficult to teach it the real rules later, and this might be confusing for your new buddy.

Your Pet’s Health

Many shelters will have your pet’s vaccinations up to date, but make sure to check before taking your pet home. This could save you some money on your pet’s first shots. Either way, it is a good idea to establish with a veterinarian close by within the first month of adoption.

Exotic Pets Available for Adoption 

Not ready for the full-time commitment of a large pet? You may not realize it, but most shelters also harbor smaller animals such as ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs. Many of these small pets are surrendered by owners who get tired of them, or can no longer afford their care. They need new homes just as desperately as dogs and cats, and make wonderful pets for kids learning the responsibilities of animal care, or for people who are allergic to dog and cat hair. These pets also have different requirements, so be aware of what you’re getting and don’t just adopt one on a whim.
Take this advice into account when choosing your next shelter pet. These small pieces of advice can make the transition of pet adoption a smooth and gratifying one.
Alex Faubel enjoys writing about topics related to business and technology in career-focused education programs.