Deciding to Adopt
Things to consider before adding a new family member
Falling in love with a new pet is easy. Pets provide companionship, amusement and health benefits. You may take up walking for your dog, and find yourself losing weight. You may have a cat that loves people, register him as a therapy pet and take him to visit hospital patients. You may just hang out on the sofa and watch t.v., sharing a bowl of unsalted popcorn. The bond between a pet and his owner is an amazing thing. A pet, however, needs more than love from his owner.
Taking responsibility for a pet for the rest of his life is a big commitment. Pets require time, money, and sometimes even a change in lifestyle. Because of this, Helping Strays encourages you to carefully consider your decision to adopt before you bring your new companion home.
To help you get started, we've put together some questions to ask yourself below. These questions have been specifically crafted to give you second, third, and fourth thoughts about whether you should adopt. At the same time, though, we're not trying to discourage you. Remember that adopting a pet, besides being an important responsibility, may also be one of the most wondeful choices you ever make.
- Why do you want a pet? Adopting a puppy just because the kids want one on a whim can be a big mistake. If the children lose interest after a month, are you prepared to make up for the time they're not spending with the dog? On the other hand, a puppy may be exactly the sort of friend your children need after a long day at school.
- Do you have time for a pet? They aren't called companion animals for nothing! Every pet you adopt — be it a dog, cat, or rabbit — will need not just food and water, but exercise, care, and companionship every day of the year. Cats don't go to work every day and chat with other cats; dogs don't go out to dinner with friends or catch a ball game. They are completely dependent on you to provide for them — mind, body, and soul.
- Can you afford a pet? A pet needs food, toys, litter, licensing, classes, regular veterinary care, grooming, and emergency medical care. All that can add up to a sizable chunk of your budget. Some of the pets we've taken in were turned over by families who underestimated how much money it would take to care for their pet. Consider your budget, savings account, long-term financial goals, and job security.
- Are you ready for the special problems that a pet brings? Fleas can happen, as can scratched furniture, potty accidents, and unexpected medical emergencies. There's no such thing as a pet that doesn't shed, although some do shed less than others. Dogs bark, cats like high places. Life is different with another species in the house.
- Are you prepared to be a responsible owner? Spaying or neutering your pet, as well as keeping her identification up to date, and following local leash and licensing laws are part of responsible ownership. Your pet will continue to need good food, fresh water, exercise and companionship her entire life.
"Many pets are in shelters because their owner didn’t think about some or all of the questions we mentioned above."
After reading those questions, you now probably have a whole host of new ones. For example, how do you know if you can afford a pet? How much does a pet cost? Do different pets cost differently? It takes a lot of research to answer all that, and that can be daunting. We encourage you to use us as a resource. We are more than happy to hear from you, field your questions, provide advice, and direct you to further resources. We are also making an ongoing effort to expand and improve the information available on this website. If you'd like, you can subscribe to our newsletter to receive news updates about content available here.
Many pets are in shelters because their owners didn’t think about some or all of the questions we mentioned above. Some owners realize too late that they are unable to provide a good home for their pet, and reluctantly surrender them to Animal Control or a shelter like ours. Other owners grow bored or frustrated with caring for their pets, and abandon them on the sides of roads and in alleys behind buildings. Be honest with yourself and make the right choice. It may save both you and your pet from heartache and grief.
If you decide that you have the love, but possibly not the time or the money, there are alternatives to adoption for people like yourself. Consider volunteering for Helping Strays and giving that love to those who are waiting for their new homes.