Adopting a Pet - Finding the Perfect Fit
Spring is here and animal shelters everywhere will soon be overflowing
with litters of puppies and kittens, in addition to all the usual stray
and unwanted pets they normally take in. It is tough for everyone
involved. There simply aren't enough good homes to go around. Sometimes,
the pets that tug at our hearts are the ones that have had more difficult
past lives. We see it all the time: a news story about a pet that has
been abused or badly injured results in a flood of adoption applications
for that one animal. It's a natural reaction to want to help an animal
that needs it so badly.
Adopting a pet because they've had a difficult past, or because
they're less adoptable (for example, elderly or disabled pets) is
well-intentioned, but isn't necessarily the right thing to do.
There are thousands upon thousands of pets who need homes.
Adopting a pet that does not suit your family, temperament, and
lifestyle isn't fair to either you or to him. No pet wants to
feel that he is the cause of constant frustration for his family. The
best matches are those that bring together a human family and
a pet who make each other happy.
Here are some things to consider before
choosing a new pet
to join your family:
- How much time are you willing to devote? Think about the other
obligations in your life, including family, friends, work, chores, and
hobbies. How much time can you reasonably and realistically spend with
your new pet?
- A pet that sheds heavily may result in more vacuuming / sweeping around the house, and more grooming;
- Puppies and kittens need time spent training;
- Some dogs will require a significant amount of exercise to stay both physically and mentally healthy;
- Fearful or timid pets, or those with other behaviour issues will require more socializing and/or management;
- Disabled and elderly pets may need more help from their owners in doing day-to-day activities.
- How much patience do you have? It's hard to see an injured
dog struggling to get around, his spirit bright but his body refusing
to cooperate. He could do much better with a specially made doggie
wheelchair! It's a nice thought ... but on a daily basis, would you
be prepared to help your pet in and out of his chair? Help him
eliminate, if needed? Help him switch positions to stay comfortable?
Another example: some people are drawn to frightened dogs. They want to bring
the dog out of its shell by giving it a loving home where it
feels safe. There are so many personal accounts of people who
have adopted a 'rescue dog' and say that the dog is incredibly
loving and grateful. That's true for many, many people, and of
course it's the ideal outcome. But there are some dogs who don't
come around quite so easily; dogs who need a huge dose of time
and patience to help them overcome their fears and insecurities.
It's something that should be acknowledged, prepared for, and a
conscious commitment made to the dog.
These are just a couple of examples of pets that require more
patience. Ask yourself if you are capable of (or willing to learn)
giving the pet what they need to become a well-adjusted,
much-loved family member.
- Does the pet fit your lifestyle? Things to consider
include the types of activities you enjoy, how much exercise or
outdoor activity you engage in, how much time you spend at home,
and how often you travel. For example:
- If you don't do a lot of walking or hiking, don't get
a high-energy dog. A dog's energy level doesn't necessarily
correspond to his age or size - for instance, there are
some crazy-active small dogs and couch-potato large dogs.
- What about family considerations - for instance,
do you care for elderly relatives? If so, an enthusiastic
young dog brimming with clumsy energy may not be the
best choice. A calmer, older dog may be more suitable.
If you travel a lot, what will you do with the pet?
Most cats don't enjoy traveling. Many dogs do, but large
dogs aren't accepted as often as small dogs when looking
for a pet-friendly hotel. Would
you board your pet? How often? Aside from the cost of
boarding, is it fair to your pet if you're going to be
away a great deal?
- What are your financial constraints? No one wants to
think in terms of money when it comes to our pets... they're family,
after all! We'd like to think we would do anything to help them. The
reality is that veterinary costs can be substantial.
Nothing is ever guaranteed. A young pet doesn't necessarily mean
a healthy pet, nor does an old pet mean that you're going to be
swamped with vet bills. Accidents and unexpected illness can happen
at any time, to any animal of any age. That said, it's reasonable
to expect certain things: young dogs, for example, will need training
and socialization, and old animals have a higher likelihood of
requiring extra medical care (read up on
planning for and coping with
unexpected veterinary bills).
Other costs that vary with the type of pet chosen include food
costs (bigger dogs usually eat more), daycare (cats are usually
fine staying at home, while some owners prefer that their high-energy
dogs go to a doggy daycare), training / socialization classes (a
popular choice for owners of young dogs), or a behaviourist (
for aggressive or timid animals).
That's not to say that we should gloss over less adoptable
animals. Certainly not! There are countless stories of people who
have adopted fearful dogs, disabled dogs, elderly dogs, or pets
that were otherwise deemed "less adoptable" for various
reasons... and they willingly and lovingly committed themselves
to these pets who developed into treasured members of the family.
A dog who needs a home is a dog who needs a home, regardless of
whether it's at a private rescue organization, at the humane society,
or from someone who's literally at the end of their rope and is going
to get rid of the animal.
Likewise, a homeless pet who has never been abused or doesn't have
a heart-wrenching, unusual, or riveting tale behind him isn't any less
deserving of a home. Every pet, regardless of the drama or lack of
drama in his past, regardless of whether he's highly adoptable or
less likely to be adopted, deserves a loving home. Find a pet that
fits you ... and then enjoy each other and be happy together.
Neither you nor your pet has to be perfect... you just need to be
perfect for each other.