Choosing A Pet

You’re ready to take the plunge and bring a dog or cat into your home. So you go to the local animal shelter and see lots of animals that are waiting and hoping to be adopted into a loving home like yours. Perhaps you spot an adorable Maine Coon calico kitty or a stunning Labrador mix. Is this love at first sight?

Things to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Pet

It’s wonderful to look for your new furry friend at an animal shelter. Shelters are the biggest proponents of animal rescue and you’re doing a great thing by adopting. But you must consider all issues before you take the plunge into adoption.

First, ask yourself why you want a pet in the first place. It’s a lifetime commitment and you have to be ready for it. Do you live in a place that’s appropriate? If you rent, does your landlord permit pets? If you’re adopting a dog, is your home of suitable size? And food, grooming, veterinary bills and suppliesthey all cost money. Can you afford them?

Most important, you must try to determine whether your prospective pet is displaying signs of troublesome behavior. In dogs and puppies, look at traits like excessive scratching, chewing or biting. Does the dog seem overly aggressive? With cats and kittens, look for indications of urine spraying or failure to use a litter box. These displays might be indicative of underlying physical problems or serious behavioral issues that can wreak havoc or contribute to heartache in your home.

Study Your Animal Carefully Before Adoption

Shelter pets that are up for adoption are usually vaccinated and spayed. Shelters want you to adopt and they generally do a great job with their animals, but you must be vigilant and choose carefully. Ask questions of the shelter staff and determine all you can about the animal’s background, including how or why he or she came to the shelter in the first place. Sadly, some shelter pets have been removed from homes and are victims of animal abuse.

Ask the employees at the shelter about your prospective pet’s behavior. For example, you may want to know if the animal is good with children or with other potential companion animals, particularly cats and dogs that can’t be contained like smaller animals. Or is the animal afraid of men or people in uniform!

Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Shelter staff might not have specific answers, but you must ask. And if important questions are left unanswered, it might be best (despite the sadness) to say “no” for that particular pet.

If all the questions are answered and you still want to adopt, make sure you check the animal. While shelter workers thoroughly examine each animal, keep in mind that they see hundreds of animals each day. They may miss something during their examinations. And besides, it would be good initial bonding time between you and your pet.

Make sure to check the following body parts:

  • Ears: They should be free of discharge and odor.
  • Eyes: They should be clear with little to no discharge.
  • Mouth: Gums should be pink, teeth should have little to no plaque build-up, breath should not smell bad.
  • Fur: It should be soft, not greasy or sticky, and free of fleas or flea “dirt.”
  • Skin: It should be free from redness and “hot spots.”
  • Chest: Feel the ribs. You should be able to feel each one, but they should not be visible.
  • Bottom: The anus should be clean and free from indications of diarrhea or inflammation.
  • Feet: Nail beds should not be red or tender to the touch.

Getting to Know and Understand Your New Pet

Take your time in choosing a pet. Visit the shelter as many times as you need to ensure that this is the pet for you. Don’t be tempted to take the animal home on the first visit. Many people get caught up in the thrill of pet adoption and some later regret their decision.

Arrange for your family and any existing pets to spend some time with the animal, either at the animal shelter or on a trial visit to your home. Ideally, pet adoption should be considered only when you and your family have the spare time to help your new pet adjust to his or her new home environment. Pet adoption is a big decision. Make your choice wisely and make it one that your family will enjoy for a long, long time.